Washington State Community College (WSCC) is part of a national publication praising its progress in improving student success called Guided Pathways.
As a result of the changes implemented with this initiative, the college has seen improvements in a variety of areas, including the number of certificates and diplomas awarded, increased course completion rates, and better retention from fall to spring.
The Community College Research Center (CCRC) recently published their paper, “Funding for Guided Pathway Reforms in Small Colleges: Three Ohio Community Colleges Show How to Do It.”
The article, written by authors Davis Jenkins, Serena Klempin, and Hana Lahr, describes how small colleges can fund and support Guided Pathways reforms. WSCC, along with Zane State and North Central State colleges were used as case studies. All three institutions have seen student success improve significantly with the implementation of Guided Pathways.
WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood said the work on Guided Pathways implemented at the WSCC was inspired by the book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, which was co-authored by Jenkins, one of authors of the CPAB article.
“This book has spurred a movement in community colleges that will forever be part of the fiber of higher education,” explained Wood. She goes on to credit the authors for “actively leading and influencing the higher education landscape.
“Wood said the case studies in the book featured large institutions and many smaller colleges were inspired by the concept but wondered how it could be applied with limited funding. Undaunted to adapt the program to the needs of the WSCC, Wood described how the college divided the concepts of change into three phases and implemented its plan over the past four years.
“The work we did was a complete overhaul of the student experience, from a student’s first contact with the college to graduation/certificate, and it impacted every facet of the college “, says Wood. Among the initial successes, Wood shared that overall certificate completion improved by more than 11% and graduation increased by more than 9%. She added that the college saw a 17% increase in new students earning at least 24 college credits in their freshman year, and persistence from fall to spring jumped 9%.
“These improved numbers are a direct result of our work on guided routes. We provide our students with holistic support, which means we support them both in and out of the classroom,” Wood explained. During the first phase, the college redesigned its Center for Student Success (CSS). This process began with relocating all of its student support services to one location to make it easier for students to access services to help them overcome barriers. A multitude of obstacles often cause students to drop out.
The college has also dedicated more resources to student support services, including tutoring, transfer assistance, mentorship, pantry and mental health counselling. In phase two, the college created the Student OneStop where admissions, College Credit Plus (CCP), financial aid, records, and business office functions were centralized. This was done to personalize assistance during the initial login and registration entry phase. The personalized approach was designed to help take the stress out of the registration process.
The college also began offering advice for financial planning as well as assistance in completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). During the third phase, the college updated its curriculum delivery models to better accommodate the busy lifestyles of students.
The majority of classes have moved from 16 weeks to an 8 week delivery model. Career paths have also been strengthened by including stackable degrees and certificates allowing students to learn job-leading skills while earning an associate’s degree. In addition, short-term training has been added to help incumbent and displaced workers update their skills and earn industry-recognized credentials. Wood acknowledged the far-reaching changes that have been made by the college and credits the successful implementation of guided pathways to its faculty and staff.
“Redesigning the student experience was a huge undertaking that was only possible because our faculty and staff fully embraced the vision. They have been instrumental in implementing the changes and maintaining our momentum,” praises Wood. She said she believes the publication will serve to support and inspire other small community colleges across the country to embrace the Guided Pathways initiative.