Across the country, community colleges are redesigning for Guided Pathways. The goal of this work is to improve rates of college completion, transfer, and attainment of jobs. This is done by ensuring students have a clear path, are helped on a path, are encouraged to stay on the path, and finally, are learning on the path.
Guided Pathways is a comprehensive, large-scale transformational change for a college campus. One component of the redesign process that many colleges have tackled is academic advising. According to the Center’s last report, Show Me the Way: The Power of Advising in Community Colleges, the percentage of entering students seeing an advisor has increased over time. In 2011, 56% of entering students indicated that an advisor helped them set academic goals and create a plan for achieving them. By 2016, the percentage had increased to 67%.
Encouraging, yes. But it leads me to this question: If more students are seeing advisors, are those advisors asking students if there is any way they could attend college full-time, even for a semester? Ensuring that advisors are prepared and equipped for the new expectations placed on them in the Guided Pathways environment doesn’t just happen—advisors have to be trained and equipped to engage in new ways.
One multi-college district—Alamo Colleges District (TX)—has done just that through AlamoADVISE. In AlamoADVISE, academic and career advising is a series of ongoing conversations with students that establishes a realization of educational, career, and life goals. The connections with students are deliberate and intentional at three different times: pre-college–0 hours, 0–30 hours, and 31+hours. Advisors participate in training, and as part of the training learn about the Summer Momentum Program (SMP). In SMP if a student takes a total of 18 hours over the fall and spring semesters, the student receives one free summer class. Similarly, if a student takes a total of 24 hours in the fall and spring semesters, the student receives two free classes. As part of AlamoADVISE, advisors inform students about the program and the benefits.
In the very first summer of the program, which was summer 2017, 53% of SMP eligible students across the District’s five colleges took advantage of the benefits and enrolled in classes. Though it’s still too early to know for certain, summer 2018 figures are expected to be about the same. The real take away, however, isn’t just that students are taking more hours, but when the SMP students were compared to non-SMP students, SMP students had slightly higher GPAs at each of the five colleges for summer 2017. In addition, SMP students persisted to the subsequent fall term at higher rates than did non-SMP students.
This is just one example of a district implementing large scale reform. They are not just thinking about unique, discrete practices, but also about how to equip advisors to discuss the benefits of taking more classes. And it’s working!