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Guided Pathways

Helping Students Complete Programs Faster

Several of our colleges are beginning to use a “guided pathways” approach to improve students’ progress through college. Students are given clear, deliberate, simple course choices that lead to certificates and degrees. These choices are presented to students in the form of a "program maps" that align with their goals for careers and further education. Funding comes from College Spark Washington.


Lisa Garcia-Hanson
Student Success Center Director

Nanette Angel
Administrative Assistant, Student Services


The Pathways Model

The essential practices of each the four dimensions of Pathways Model

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Simplify students’ choices with default program maps — meta-majors — developed by faculty and advisors that show students a clear pathway to completion or transfer, further education and employment in fields of importance to the region.

Redesign intake, orientation, placement, and advising to help entering students choose a meta-major and enroll in a Program of Study as quickly as possible.

Redesign traditional remediation as an “on-ramp” to a program of study, which helps students explore academic and career options from the beginning of their college experience, aligns math and other foundation skills coursework with a student’s program of study, and integrates and contextualizes instruction to build academic and non-academic foundation skills throughout the college-level curriculum, particularly in program “gateway” courses.

Provide accelerated remediation to help very poorly prepared students succeed in college-level courses as soon as possible.

Support students through a strong advising process, embedded and ongoing in the pathway experience and supported by appropriate technology, to help students make informed choices, strengthen clarity about transfer and career opportunities at the end of their chosen college path, ensure they develop an academic plan with predictable schedules, monitor their progress, and intervene when they go off track.

Embed academic and non-academic supports throughout students’ programs to promote student learning and persistence.

Establish program-level learning outcomes aligned with the requirements for success in employment and further education in a given field and apply the results of learning outcomes assessment to improve the effectiveness of instruction across programs.

Integrate group projects, internships, and other applied learning experiences to enhance instruction and student success in courses across programs of study.

Ensure incorporation of effective teaching practice throughout the pathways.


In many cases, students begin with "meta-majors" in a broad area of interest, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), health care, business, liberal arts or social science. As students progress, the pathways narrow into more specific majors such as chemistry, accounting and nursing. This allows students to explore broad interest areas while taking general requirements. This way, students can make a more deliberate and well-informed choice as they narrow down their decision on a major or program of study.

(Meta-major description courtesy of Complete College America.)

Navigating the path through college

Simply put, guided pathways are to students what GPS systems are to drivers — a step-by-step set of directions to a final destination. The meta-majors are akin to entering a city name in a GPS: students head off, in general education courses, in the direction of their general interest area. The program maps show them the route to take through courses, with the final destination of a degree or certificate. And, advisors keep them on-track throughout the journey. 

SBCTC and College Spark Washington invite Washington state public community and technical colleges to submit an application to participate in the Guided Pathways initiative

Request for applications (RFA) will open in Spring 2018 for the 2018 Fiscal Year. 

Find handouts from Guided Pathways workshops held January 2016 at Columbia Basin College and Clover Park Technical College.

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Last Modified: 1/17/17 11:43 AM