MCCC studies new pathway to graduation

Randy Daniels, VP of Student Services

MCCC is looking at implementing a new program called Guided Pathways aimed at helping new students figure out a structured path to follow through their college career.

When new students register for classes at MCCC, counselors will help them lay out a complete guideline, which they can follow throughout their time here at the college.

"If you think of embarking on your college career as a journey, and the college as being like the woods, what I think we do is take you as a student, get you to the edge of the forest, maybe in a little ways, and say okay, here you are," said Randy Daniels, Vice President of Student and Information Services.

That sometimes leaves students wandering in the forest, and maybe getting lost, he said.

The new guided pathway process will give students a more clear path through the woods, based on their particular interests.

"It could be designed just for you, because what your goals are here at community college are different from your classmates," Daniels said.

Guided Pathways will be a tailored route, pre-established at the beginning of your college career, said Vinnie Maltese, dean of the Science and Math Division.

It will begin with some flexibility, giving you some time to figure out what your major is, but will narrow over the semesters, limiting your class choices, he said.

The program should help to keep students from making poor class decisions, ultimately helping them avoid taking unnecessary credits.

"A lot of students aren’t being advised properly, they’re taking a lot of credits they don’t need, so the pathways actually limits what you can take," Maltese said.

Taking unnecessary classes is an issue with students around the country. On average, only 34 percent of students aiming to acquire a bachelor’s degree graduate on time, because they end up taking classes they didn’t need, according to a report by Complete College America.

The average student going for a bachelor’s degree ends up earning 16 extra credit hours more than they needed to graduate, the report said.

Student retention is also an important aspect of the program, Daniels said.

As of 2014, the graduation rate for degree-seeking students at MCCC was 14 percent, down 4 percent from 2013.

According to Daniels, other colleges who have implemented guided pathways programs have shown improvement in student retention.

Kara Walker, an MCCC student, agrees that the program may help with student retention.

"I can see it helping students to not drop out. It gives you more accountability," she said. "I kinda wish I had that when I first started."

The Guided Pathways system is still in beginning stages for MCCC, but will be implemented in phases over the course of a few years, Daniels said.

It it decides to go ahead with the plans, MCCC could start implementing portions of the program in about a year, he said.