GPS Direct

Default students onto guided pathways – clear, highly-structured academic maps that are built for on-time completion – rather than allowing them to wander aimlessly through coursework. Empower students to make informed choices of majors and use technology-enabled, early alerts to keep them on track for graduation.

Overview

Introduction

Complete College America has long been a leading advocate and provider of technical assistance for the implementation of Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) – highly-structured degree plans that are built for on-time completion and supported by technology. GPS Direct builds upon this existing work and replaces complicated and unnavigable systems with clear plans that lead to student success, tackling head on our country’s abysmal graduation rates and the wasted time and money that come with them. Below, you will learn more about GPS Direct, the problems solved by the intervention, and gain access to tools and resources for implementing GPS Direct in your state, system or institution.

“As a person of color, an immigrant, and a first-generation college student, people don’t often expect that I’d be a college graduate. But Guttman helped me prove them all wrong. The support and structures at this school made all the difference, and I now have a 4-year degree because of it.”

Ramon Mendez

Graduate, Guttman Community College ’15; City College of New York ’17

Know the Problem

The vast majority of college students in America do not graduate on time. Many never graduate. This happens because higher education rarely provides clear pathways to degrees, careers and further education, offering instead a dizzying array of programs and majors with little to no built-in support. Excess credits pile up as students make poor early choices about majors. Extra semesters and years get tacked on as students take courses that don’t count toward their degrees or when needed milestone courses aren’t available. Worse yet, in the absence of a structured option, students struggle to balance work and school and graduation rates stagnate, often resulting in student loan debt but no degree.

Intended Time to Degree

Excess Time to Degree


1-to 2- Year Certificate

Years

2-Year Associate

Years

4-Year Bachelor's (All Other)

Years

4-Year Bachelor's (Highest Research)

Years

Years

Intended Time to Degree

Excess Time to Degree


African American

Hispanic

Pell

Asian

White


DSData Suppressed

NANot Applicable

DUData Unavailable

1-to 2- Year Certificate

2-Year Associate

4-Year Bachelor's (All Other)

4-Year Bachelor's (Highest Research)

Years

1-to 2- Year Certificate

2-Year Associate

4-Year Bachelor's (All Other)

4-Year Bachelor's (Highest Research)

Intended Credits to Degree

Excess Credits to Degree


1-to 2- Year Certificate

Credits

2-Year Associate

Credits

4-Year Bachelor's (All Other)

Credits

4-Year Bachelor's (Highest Research)

Credits

Credits

Intended Credits to Degree

Excess Credits to Degree


African American

Hispanic

Pell

Asian

White


DSData Suppressed

NANot Applicable

DUData Unavailable

1-to 2- Year Certificate

2-Year Associate

4-Year Bachelor's (All Other)

4-Year Bachelor's (Highest Research)

Credits

1-to 2- Year Certificate

2-Year Associate

4-Year Bachelor's (All Other)

4-Year Bachelor's (Highest Research)

Take Action

GPS Direct is a mutual guarantee between students and colleges. Students stick to their academic maps, maintain 30 credits per year for on-time completion, and accomplish all milestone courses along their program of study. Colleges monitor student progress through technology-enabled solutions, provide proactive advising as needed, and guarantee that courses will be available whenever they are required along a student’s chosen academic map. Learn more about each of the components of GPS Direct below.

  • Purpose First: Informed Choice of Meta Majors

    Purpose First: Informed Choice of Meta Majors

    Early decisions matter. Provide students opportunities to evaluate their interests and explore career options, using labor-market data to reveal trends and possibilities. Offer meta majors – broad buckets of similar academic programs which narrow into specific majors – to avoid unnecessary wandering through the course catalogue. [Learn more about Purpose First] [Meta Majors in Florida]

  • Academic Maps, Built for Completion

    Academic Maps, Built for Completion

    Students choose meta majors, majors or programs, not random, individual courses. The resulting full-program academic maps provide a default sequence of courses that lead to on-time completion, indicating milestone courses – classes that demonstrate appropriate and timely progress – along the way. Additionally, academic maps should provide Math Pathways that are aligned to majors and career interests, offering a clear and relevant path to graduation. [See a Sample Academic Map]

  • Default Pathways and Registration

    Default Pathways and Registration

    Students remain on their academic map unless given approval by an advisor to change course. Exploration is allowed and enabled, but is more intentional, and students are aware of the time and costs associated with alterations. Default plans and one-click registration keep students on track, removing the uncertainty of what courses must be taken to earn the degree or credential. [Default Registration at University of Hawaii]

  • Proactive Advising

    Proactive Advising

    Use available information and student success data to provide support before students ever begin to struggle. Technological innovations enhance this work by monitoring progress and issuing early alerts to flag students for interventions when they need it most. [Georgia State: Proactive Advising in Action] [CCA Technology Seal of Approval Rubric]

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Help us boost student success and college completion for millions of Americans, and advance the rate of change needed to meet state and national attainment goals. Sign up for updates here.

Implementation Guide

Understand

GPS Direct is a comprehensive college completion strategy, addressing issues along the full continuum of the student experience. The resources below will provide an overview of GPS Direct and a foundation for implementation, including information on the problem, guidance on generating buy-in amongst stakeholders, and tools that can assist in developing your action plan.

Resources

Four-Year Myth

The vast majority of college students in America do not graduate on time, but many more can - saving themselves and their families precious time and money. Four Year Myth examines this problem and offers GPS Direct as the solution.

At College, a Guided Path on Which to Find Oneself

The New York Times explores Guided Pathways and institutions taking action.

CCA Alliance Compact and Scaling Standards

Guidance on our work, our Alliance, and the optimal approach to Game Changer implementation.

  • Know the Problem

    For decades, higher education has worked to expand choices for students: hundreds, if not thousands, of course offerings; classes at all hours of the day and on weekends; majors in every possible discipline. But behavioral economics tells us that too much choice – especially uninformed choice – leads to indecision or poor decisions. Using the resources below, better understand the problem and proposed solutions to more effectively drive change in your state, region or institution.

    Resources

    On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions

    Strada/Gallup -- More than half of U.S. adults regret portions of their postsecondary education, including choices of degrees, majors, institutions.

    Shapeless River: Does a Lack of Structure Inhibit Student Success at Community Colleges?

    Community College Research Center

    The Paradox of Choice and College Success

    Dr. Barry Schwartz discusses the role of behavioral economics in college completion.

  • Generate Buy In

    Provide key stakeholders with data that reveals the problem and an explanation of the structural elements at its root. Share evidence-based examples of GPS Direct’s impact, outside evaluations of the intervention, and benefits of implementing the reform. “Challenge Events,” conducted in partnership with CCA, should be used to help make the case for reform, convening leaders, providing in-depth information, and challenging stakeholders to support implementation through the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

    Resources

    Memorandum of Understanding

    Sample MOU as used by CCA, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College, Lone Star College System, San Jacinto College District, and Wharton County Junior College for the implementation of Houston GPS.

    The Return on Investment from Proactive Advising

    Tim Renick (Georgia State University) shares results, addresses concerns about implementation.

    GPS: Perspectives from Indiana College Students and Advisors

    Indiana Commission for Higher Education

  • Create an Action Plan

    Gather institutional leaders and task forces – representing all stakeholders associated with implementation – for a Completion Academy where one-year implementation plans will be developed. Work with CCA to access national content experts for further guidance on catalyzing a plan that leads to scale.

    Resources

    Implementing Guided Pathways: Tips and Tools

    CCRC - Article outlining the process of implementing Guided Pathways, including steps to take from years one to five.

    The Origin Story of Houston GPS

    Dr. Paula Myrick Short describes the planning that took the Houston GPS initiative from big idea to groundbreaking reality.

    Sample Planning Agendas and Resources

    Collection of materials from Indiana’s planning and implementation events.

Act

Successfully implementing GPS Direct requires intentional planning and a constant feedback loop with stakeholders. Though important to assess and accommodate the specific needs of your institution, it is also beneficial to draw on proven best practices using the resources below.  

Resources

Guided Momentum for a Million Students

Panelists from University of North Georgia, Indiana State University, Houston Community College and University of Houston discuss the process of GPS Direct implementation at their individual institutions and share early results.

Building an Academic Map

Larry Abele discusses the design of default academic maps, including the use of meta-majors, and guaranteed milestone courses.

Four-Year Colleges are Using Guided Pathways, Too. Here’s Why.

EAB – Discussion of GPS implementation at 4-year institutions.

  • Design The Strategy

    Use evidence-based models and proven best practices to guide the work of implementation teams, all the while ensuring the reform is customized to meet the needs of individual state, regional and institutional partners. Resources below include examples of GPS Direct models, as well as materials to help design components of the strategy.

    Resources

    The Momentum Year

    Experts discuss core components of "The Momentum Year" - including the value of gateway course success, early credit accumulation, Corequisite Remediation, and Math Pathways.

    Meta-Major Planning Document

    Template from Houston GPS to plan and organize meta-majors as part of GPS Direct.

    Academic Advising and GPS Direct

    Experts from around the country discuss the important role of advising in GPS Direct implementation.

  • Communicate with Stakeholders

    Effective implementation of Game Changer strategies requires communication with a broad array of internal and external stakeholders. Communication within institutions and systems should introduce plans, provide progress reports, and deliver details of implementation. Recognizing that reform is often difficult, teams should provide ample opportunities for feedback and make adjustments to the plan as necessary while maintaining fidelity to the core components of the strategy. Resources below provide examples of how systems and institutions have shared information and validation with stakeholders.

    Resources

    Houston GPS Action Story

    Students from Houston share their stories and highlight the important work happening as a result of Houston GPS.

    2017 Indiana College Completion Report

    Annual report for stakeholders that provides extensive data and progress updates.

    Doubling Graduation Rates

    MDRC – Study showing the effectiveness of CUNY ASAP, which provides more structure to students, resulting in higher graduation rates.

  • Implement the Strategy

    Provide professional development and training opportunities for all stakeholders involved in implementation of the reform and stick to the timeline developed by the implementation teams. Document the implementation and provide opportunities for stakeholders to connect and problem solve throughout the execution of the strategy.

    Resources

    What We Know About Guided Pathways

    CCRC - Overview of the current knowledge base around Guided Pathways, including a review of the components, supporting evidence from behavioral economics and higher education research, and information on current implementations.

    GPS Direct Seal of Approval Technology Award

    CCA program evaluating software vendors for functionality aligned with GPS Direct.

    Serving the Equity Imperative

    Brief discussing equity data and the role of states and higher education systems in addressing gaps through Game Changer strategies.

Improve

As with any initiative, it is critical that GPS Direct efforts are effectively measured and data is used proactively for improvement. GPS Direct is a long-term solution with many components, requiring refinement along the path to scale. Build in methods to continually improve service to students and sustain interventions through the use of policy.

Resources

New Rules: Policies to Strengthen and Scale the Game Changers

Report outlining initiatives that, when supported by policymakers and implemented to scale, can significantly boost college completion and close achievement gaps.

Essential Practices of GPS Direct

Checklist of the essential components for the implementation of GPS Direct.

Structured Schedules

Structured Schedules are key to ensuring that busy students who are juggling many priorities can successfully make it to graduation.

  • Measure

    Successful implementation requires consistent evaluation of progress and outcomes against Game Changer metrics that serve as baselines. Implementation leaders should survey participating institutions to document strategies, timelines to scale and technical assistance needs. Qualitative data should also be collected from implementers and students.

    Resources

    Common College Completion Metrics Technical Guide

    Technical Guide describing concepts, data elements and definitions for the Common College Completion Metrics adopted by CCA and the National Governors Association.

    Houston GPS Outcome Measures Template

    Template for measuring the impact of Guided Pathways practices.

    Using College Data to Build Local Support for GPS

    Webinar discussing the use of data to drive change and accelerate implementation.

  • Refine the Implementation

    Keep improving the implementation through analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, collected after each term of implementation. Identify improvements that can be deployed and identify challenges that require deeper analysis.

    Resources

    Implementing Guided Pathways: Early Insights from the AACC Pathways Colleges

    CCRC - Report identifying the ways colleges are implementing GPS strategies and what they have learned from the experience.

    Houston GPS Biannual Progress Assessment

    Sample evaluation of progress and timelines for implementation of Houston GPS.

    Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of GPS Direct

    Pathways Collaborative

  • Sustain the Strategy

    Implementation leaders should compile institutional implementation results and generate state reports focused on improved student outcomes. Explore the financial impact of reform and adjust organizational and budgetary policy to sustain the reform, at scale. Engage with policy makers to codify effective reforms and to fortify needed changes.

    Resources

    Summer Action Summit: Policy and Implementation

    Leaders from Texas discuss the nexus of policy and implementation and its role in sustaining reforms.

    New Rules: Detailed Policy Language

    Educational resource that includes policy language for sustaining implementation of Game Changers.

    Outcomes-Based Funding: The Wave of Implementation

    Game Changer strategies are most effective when funding models are based on outcomes, not just enrollment.

Support Community

Connect with Content Experts

Below are state and institutional leaders from around the country who have successfully implemented components of GPS Direct. Use the form below to ask questions and receive expert guidance through your own implementation efforts.

Join the Movement!

Help us boost student success and college completion for millions of Americans, and advance the rate of change needed to meet state and national attainment goals. Sign up for updates here.