BY NATALIE ACCARDI
For the next three years, the Guided Pathways program will be implemented by community colleges across the U.S.
Institutions such as the Center for Community College Engagement and Jobs for the Future are being funded to provide a curriculum model for the program.
The pathway’s learning structure would help wayward college students graduate, as well as find success in their respective fields. Dropping graduation rates are also a motivator. According to President David Levinson, the college’s graduate rate is 8 percent.
Dr. Gretchen Schmidt, executive director of the Pathways Project for the American Association of Community Colleges, visited the college on Jan. 22 to discuss its merits via a presentation.
Using Lorain Community College as an example, Schmidt presented a model of their Business curriculum. Students entering that program, who do not necessarily know what branch of business they want to pursue, could take easily transferable general education classes to start. After 30 credit hours, the student would then be advised to choose a specific business program, and a map containing all relevant courses would outline the rest of their college career.
Choosing a major to begin with, Schmidt said is made harder when one of the factors that confuses a student is a disorganized course selection menu. Recalling selection choices, Schmidt alluded that less is more.
“National research says it’s better to do between six and eight. That’s about the point where behavioral economics says that students make good choices,” Schmidt said.
Students making good choices was a consistent theme in the presentation. Schmidth used students who have spent their Pell grants and racked up credits trying to finish a degree, as proof of a skewed system. Schmidt maintained that the pathways structure would be a sure-fire victory.
However, when faced with the possibility of adopting this structure at the college, not all members of the community were entirely convinced.
Professor Joseph Fucigna, faculty coordinator of the Art Program, said he does not think pathways is the best idea. Particularly, he said he believes that the presentations focus on data detracted from its human component: the students.
“It seems that a lot of what we do in our life…all the testing now we do in schools, that’s all data-driven. In many-respects it’s all about the test now and I think there’s a kind of backlash against it and this highly structured way,” Fucigna said.
Another issue Fucigna has with pathways is the idea that many students do not know what they want to do.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think someone who knows what they want to do, has a passion about something, that’s a gift. They are in the minority…the idea of choosing what you want to do with the rest of your life in such a structured fashion is not the only way. There are many ways,” Fucign said.
Fucigna said he believes that a lot of students in community college are experimenting, and that it is often the cheapest option to figure out what they want to do.
“Coming to NCC and figuring out what you don’t want to do, is not failure,” he said. “I think figuring out what you don’t want to do is just as important,” Fucigna said.