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The Pathways Project: Guiding Students to College Completion

Community College of Philadelphia Selected for New, National Initiative


Colleges participating in a new national initiative called the Pathways Project will implement guided academic and career pathways at scale — for all students. That is the shared commitment of the 30 institutions selected to join the groundbreaking program led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Following a highly competitive national selection process, Community College of Philadelphia was invited to join in and contribute to the body of important work. This initiative reinforces the College’s ongoing effort to create a holistic educational approach that creates guided pathways from the student’s initial contact with the College through graduation.

AACC is coordinating a national partnership to build capacity for community colleges to implement a pathways approach to student success and college completion. Partners include Achieving the Dream, Inc., the Aspen Institute, the Center for Community College Student Engagement, the Community College Research Center, Jobs for the Future, the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement, and Public Agenda. Partners have participated actively in the college selection process and also are substantively involved in designing a model series of six two-day pathways institutes, each focusing on key elements in a fully-scaled pathway model for community colleges. The project is funded through a $5.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Pathways Project is designed to help simplify student decision-making, enable frequent feedback and target support as needed to help students stay the course.

Additionally, it will:

  • Clarify paths to students’ end goals by simplifying their choices and establishing pathways to transfer
  • Help students choose and enter a pathway by providing accelerated remediation if needed
  • Help students stay on path by supporting them through advising and academic and nonacademic supports
  • Ensure student learning by establishing learning outcomes; integrating digital and projects, internships and other applied learning experiences to enhance instruction and student success; and ensure incorporation of effective teaching practices

“These very diverse community colleges can feel proud of the strong foundations they have laid for this transformational work,” said AACC president Walter G. Bumphus. “We are pleased with the rigor and integrity that the Pathways partners have ensured in the selection process, and all of the partners look forward to the intensive work ahead.”

The goal is to help more students graduate from College or earn workforce credentials.

“We know from the research amassed by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, that for students to persist and to achieve academic success, they need clear direction and guidance leading toward a career goal,” said Dr. Donald Guy Generals, president of Community College of Philadelphia. “They need to be assisted in identifying that goal and they need to have structures that provide the necessary guidance to ensure that they are focused and in pursuit of their goal. This is a student-centered approach that requires institutional commitment and organization.”

In a letter informing Dr. Generals of the College’s selection, AACC wrote that it was impressed by the “depth and quality” of institutional efforts to date. The selected colleges will be the first to participate in the Pathways Institute series over the next 2.5 years and will work with expert coaches at those institutes. In addition, the participating colleges will contribute to learning both across the initiative and more broadly, across the community college field.