CCC paves path for students

Navigate opens to CCC students in the Summer. Photo by Mason Crawley.

Twelve percent of first-time students at Clackamas Community College don’t succeed in any of their classes in their first term. Thirty percent of first-time students don’t return for a second term in winter, and by the end of two years, twenty-four percent don’t complete a degree certificate or transfer. Overall, thirty-five percent of students drop out.

These student success rates at CCC from Fall 2014 to Spring 2016 have shocked the college, which is now taking steps to remedy the problem with the new Guided Pathways plan.

“With that twelve percent non-success rate, that means that we are not doing our jobs to serve our students,” CCC’s Director of Institutional Research and Report, Lisa Anh Wang said.

Guided Pathways is a program composed of four different sections: Navigate software, a pre-college pipeline, a curriculum workgroup and a collaborative workgroup. All these components work together to help students successfully navigate their college courses and stay on track.

“Guided pathways are to students what GPS systems are to drivers,” CCC’s Dean of Academic Foundations and Connections, Tara Sprehe said. “Your GPS system gives you a the quickest route to your destination but also provides other options. It supports you along the way, giving you friendly directions when you need to turn. If you get lost, it helps you get back on track,” Sprehe said.

The Oregon Student Success Center offered spots to five Oregon community colleges to participate in the first group of Oregon colleges implementing Guided Pathways. Along with the Chemeketa, Lane, Rogue and Southwestern community colleges, CCC was chosen in March to be a part of that group. CCC’s long-term implementation plan for Guided Pathways goes through the 2022-’23 school year

Guided Pathways will bring together all the best areas of student support- advising, course offerings and scheduling and faculty involvement. “It’s really about creating pathways so our students are spending less time trying to figure out the different systems and nuances, as opposed to just focusing on ‘steps a, b and c’,” Wang said.

Navigate will help incoming students get connected with the CCC system, help students find a focus area and provide notifications and checklists for tasks and deadlines.

Knowing what to do in the first term of college is important to both student success and makes students more likely to continue.

“That first term that students are here is really critical,” Wang said. “If students are not succeeding during that first term, then we’re doing a great injustice to our students,” Wang said.

Helping students know what classes to take and when will help reduce student expenses and debt.

The educational focus areas CCC decides on will group together classes shared by different majors and offer more general introductory courses sooner to keep students from having to start completely over if they change their focus.

“We want to make sure that students don’t end up taking a lot of credits that don’t actually get them down [their] path,” said Dawn Hendricks, CCC’s Department Chair of Education and Human Services. “We know that student debt is a huge issue, and students are graduating with more credits than they actually need,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks is co-chair of the Guided Pathways group, along with Eboni Frederick-Pettway.

“It’s a big shift in a lot of the things that we do and operate to make sure that we are providing services that students need,” Wang said.

Feeling connected and engaged is a huge factor in student success, and Hendricks hopes that encouraging involvement in clubs and extracurricular activities will be part of the Guided Pathways program at CCC.

“Typically, student athletes have a higher completion rate [than other students] because they’re going through the program as a cohort,” Hendricks said. “They often have more access to these academic supports.”

Having coaches, advisors and teachers paying attention to not only that students are doing the work, but how they are doing it is a large part of providing student support.

“Engagement is a strong influence on students remaining at the institution, and persisting at the college,” Wang said. “So, with the clubs and extracurricular activities we want to integrate that with instruction, so that we are engaging students throughout their entire career here at the college.”

An “early alert” system will be put in place to let teachers know how students are doing, making it easier to notice a student struggling to succeed.

Getting faculty and staff to be more involved in interacting with the students outside of strictly coursework helps students feel more invested in their work.

“With this level of engagement, students feel like they are not just a butt in the seat,” Wang said. “They have these long-term goals and this is one of the stepping stones towards that long-term goal.”

CCC’s faculty are excited about Guided Pathways, and the ways it can help change CCC for the better.

“We, as an institution at Clackamas, have so much great work that we’re doing, and what I’m looking forward to is bringing them together so that they work in a really synchronous kind of way,” Wang said.

CCC faculty will meet with the rest of the involved community colleges in May to discuss progress and plans for the future implementation of Guided Pathways.