Focus Group Video

Community colleges across the country are working toward redesigning the student experience utilizing the guided pathways framework. Guided pathways is an institution–wide approach to student success that is based on giving students clear, coherent, and structured educational experiences that build in a variety of academic and nonacademic supports. The pathways framework includes implementation pillars focused on clarifying the paths (through program mapping), helping students get on a path, helping students stay on their path, and ensuring students are learning. As the student experience is most clearly aligned with the second, third, and fourth implementation pillars, this tool focuses on those parts of the pathways model.

As national thought leaders and colleges continue to refine the implementation of guided pathways, it’s essential to understand more fully the triggers that might lead to student attrition as well as the leverage points that can change those outcomes. One of the ways that we can do this is through listening to what students have to say about their experiences in these areas.


Getting on a Path

To help students get on a path, the guided pathways framework advises colleges to require supports to help students get the best start, including academic planning based on career/transfer exploration and integrated academic support for passing program gateway courses.

Academic Advising & Planning

Student Success Courses

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Staying on the Path

The guided pathways framework recommendations for helping students stay on their paths include ongoing, intrusive advising and systems for students to track progress.

Ongoing, Intrusive Advising

Systems to Track Progress

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Learning on the Path

The guided pathways framework recommends several practices for enriching student learning: program-relevant, applied learning experiences; intentional student engagement; high-impact teaching practices; and a commitment to equity-minded, asset-based teaching improvement.


An essential condition of the guided pathways model is a commitment to equity in student outcomes—and in order for there to be equity in student outcomes, equity–minded practices must be in place.

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Sense of Belonging

While not an essential condition of guided pathways, ensuring that students feel a sense of belonging on campus does seem to have great value in terms of them establishing relationships with others and seeing the college as a place at which they want to stay and complete their goals.

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Carlos’s Story

Carlos, a first-generation student who worked over 40 hours per week and was registered for four classes when he started college, dropped out before the end of the first term. Listen in as he describes the challenges he faced.

See more video clips from this project on CCCSE’s YouTube Channel.