Investing in community colleges is a central part of the Biden administration’s education agenda, with the goal of strengthening America’s middle class and opening the benefits of education to all Americans. CCRC has conducted 25 years of research on how community colleges can more effectively educate students and set them up to successfully transfer to a four-year college, launch a family-sustaining career, or upskill to get a better job. Our research has led to the conclusion that systemic, whole-college reform is needed to reach all students and to help many more of them reach their goals.
Guided Pathways is a comprehensive reform approach whereby community colleges fundamentally redesign their programs and support services in ways that create clearer, more educationally coherent pathways to credentials with strong labor-market value. It is currently being implemented by hundreds of colleges across the country. Guided Pathways is not an intervention but rather a framework that the federal government, states, and colleges can use to strengthen community colleges and improve student outcomes. In this brief, we explain what Guided Pathways is, why we think it has promise, what it costs, and how it can help improve student success on a large scale and thus grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.