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Guided Pathways

Helping Students Complete Programs Faster

College students are often not sure how to navigate an educational path to a degree, transfer or career.  As a result, they can get overwhelmed, drop out or waste valuable time and money on courses without earning a credential. 

Washington's Guided Pathways, funded by College Spark Washington, aims to address this issue by reducing and simplifying the number of choices a student must make from college entrance to program selection to degree completion.

Several of our colleges have begun to use a “guided pathways” approach to improve student 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 "program maps" that align with their goals for careers and further education. 

Student Success Center leads the charge

The Student Success Center, housed at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), provides training and technical assistance to the system colleges. Most of the SBCTC supports, tools and resources will be available to all of Washington’s two-year colleges, as SBCTC is promoting Guided Pathways across the entire community college system as a means of increasing completion rates


Lisa Garcia-Hanson
Student Success Center Director

Nanette Angel
Administrative Assistant, Student Services


Guided Pathways Model

The essential practices of each the four dimensions of the Pathways Model, as set forth by the American Association of Community Colleges' Pathways Project

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Simplify students’ choices with default program maps — metamajors — 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 metamajor 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.

Navigating a Path with Metamajors

Simply put, guided pathways are to students what GPS systems are to drivers — a step-by-step set of directions to a final destination.

In many cases, students begin with a "metamajor" in a broad area of interest, such as health care, business, liberal arts, social science or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Metamajors lead to a destination

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.

As students progress, the pathway narrows to more specific majors such as nursing, accounting or chemistry. 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. 

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Last Modified: 9/20/17 4:23 PM