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Academic Maps with Proactive Advising

Default students onto highly-structured academic maps that lay out a semester-by-semester plan toward on-time completion. Design maps to include 15 credits per semester (or 30 per year), indicate milestone and pre-requisite courses, and empower advisors to effectively monitor progress and provide intervention as needed.

Overview

Introduction

Far too often, students in American higher education wander aimlessly, picking from a smorgasbord of courses and degree requirements rather than choosing a clearly-articulated, full program of study. By providing students early opportunities to explore career and program options (including meta majors), offering academic maps that provide semester-by-semester pathways to graduation, and using proactive advising to monitor progress and provide interventions as needed, states, systems and institutions can implement a framework and support system that help students choose a path, maintain momentum on their path and ultimately complete their degree.

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. 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 clear direction, graduation rates stagnate and students end up with 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

Provide 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 agree to 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.

  • Purpose First

    Purpose First

    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. [Learn more about Purpose First]

  • 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]

Implementation Guide

Commit

As students struggle to piece together schedules and maneuver through program requirements, they rack up unneeded credits and extra semesters – all at a significant cost to them and their families. Academic maps – designed by faculty – along with proactive advising provide students clarity and direction as they pursue their credential. The resources below will provide an overview of Academic Maps with Proactive Advising, including a deeper dive into the problem, resources for generating buy-in amongst stakeholders, and additional items that can assist in developing your action plan.

Resources

At College, a Guided Path on Which to Find Oneself

The New York Times explores institutions' Guided Pathways.

CCA Alliance Compact and Scaling Standards

Guidance on our work, our Alliance, and effective implementation.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Know the Problem

    Resources below provide information on the challenge presented by aimless wandering and offer solutions to help impatient reformers more effectively drive change in their states, regions or institutions.

    Resources

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

    CCRC

    The Paradox of Choice and College Success

    Discussion of behavioral economics' effect on college completion.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Generate Buy In

    Key stakeholders need to see data that reveals the problem and an explanation of the structural elements at its root. Share evidence-based examples of the impact of effective Academic Maps with Proactive Advising, outside evaluations of the intervention, and benefits of implementing the reform. Consider “Challenge Events,” conducted in partnership with CCA, to help make the case for reform – providing in-depth information, and challenging stakeholders to support implementation.

    Resources

    The Return on Investment from Proactive Advising

    Tim Renick shares results, addresses concerns about implementation.

    GPS: Perspectives from Indiana College Students and Advisors

    Indiana Commission for Higher Education

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Create an Action Plan

    Institutional teams and task forces should gather together, representing all stakeholders associated with implementation, for a Completion Academy where they will develop one-year implementation plans for scaling the strategy. Engaging with national experts who have successfully implemented reforms will allow teams to develop strong institutional plans.

    Resources

    Origin Story of Houston GPS

    Dr. Paula Myrick Short discusses the collaboration and steps taken to create Houston GPS.

    Sample Planning Agendas and Resources

    Materials from Indiana’s planning and implementation events.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Act

Successfully implementing Academic Maps with Proactive Advising 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.

Resources

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

EAB

Degree Maps 101

Indiana Commission for Higher Education resource on creating degree maps.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Design the Strategy

    Using evidence-based models and proven best practices, implementation teams should develop their approach to the intervention, ensuring the reform is customized to meet the needs of their state and institutional partners.

    Resources

    Academic Advising and GPS Direct

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

    Academic Maps at Middlesex Community College

    Example academic map as used at Middlesex Community College.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • 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

    Doubling Graduation Rates

    MDRC – Study showing the effectiveness of the CUNY ASAP program.

    Academic Maps: A Core Element of Guided Pathways to Success

    Larry Abele

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • 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

    CCA Technology Seal of Approval Award

    Evaluation of software vendors for Game Changer-aligned functionality.

    UHin4: Four-Year Graduation Plan

    Mutual responsibility agreement between University of Houston and its students.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Improve

As with any initiative, it is critical that efforts to design Academic Maps with Proactive Advising are effectively measured and data is used proactively for improvement. Build in methods to continually improve service to students and sustain interventions through the use of policy.

Resources

Teams and Building Momentum

Strong teams, like Georgie, can supercharge implementation efforts.

Using Your College Data to Build Local Support for GPS and Game Changer Completion Strategies

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • 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

    Purpose First: Measuring Impact

    CCA's Katie Zaback discusses measuring results of Purpose First.

    Houston GPS Outcome Measures Template

    Template for measuring the impact of Guided Pathways practices.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • 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

    Houston GPS Degree Map Assessment

    Houston's evaluation of existing degree maps and actions aligning with Momentum Year efforts.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • 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, 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

    Beyond the Grant: Strategies for Sustaining GPS

    CCA webinar

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Support Community

Connect with Content Experts

Below are state and institutional leaders from around the country who have successfully implemented Academic Maps and Proactive Advising. Use the form below to ask questions and receive expert guidance for your own implementation efforts.

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What interests you?

15 to Finish

Boost the number of students who are on track for on-time graduation by encouraging enrollment in 15 credits each semester (30 credits per year, including summers). Financial aid dollars, as well as institutional process and practice, should support that standard.

Math Pathways

Ensure all students enroll in and complete gateway math in their first year by designing math courses that are aligned with the skills students need for their chosen program of study.

Corequisite Support

Increase gateway course completion within the first year by enrolling entering students into the college-level math and English courses, providing those who need additional help a concurrent course or lab that offers just-in-time academic support.

Momentum Year

Build momentum so students meet first-year benchmarks: informed choice of meta major or major, enrollment in 30 credits with nine in the program of study and completion of gateway courses. Provide early support and guidance for decision making, using interest assessments and labor-market data.

Academic Maps with Proactive Advising

Default students onto highly-structured academic maps that include 15 credits per semester (or 30 per year), indicate milestone and pre-requisite courses, and empower advisors to effectively monitor progress and provide intervention as needed.

A Better Deal for Returning Adults

Increase degree attainment by inviting adult learners back to complete their education, providing a redesigned system that offers accelerated courses, year-round enrollment and predictable schedules. Give credit for prior learning and experience and additional support to help students navigate the system.

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