USA Funds (now Strada Education Network) and Complete College America today announced a three-year partnership to develop and deploy Purpose First, a new set of best practice advising tools that will combine labor market data, predictive analytics, career advising and key tenets of behavioral economics to assist college students in making more fully informed and deliberate choices of majors and careers.

The initiative, funded by a $1.5 million grant from USA Funds, will enable students to pursue their college goals with a strong sense of purpose and increased motivation, enhanced confidence that a chosen program of study matches academic and personal strengths, and a clear understanding of future career opportunities.

“USA Funds is pleased to support Purpose First, an innovative approach to career advising of college students to help them make more informed decisions about the ‘big choice’ of which major and career to pursue,” said Carol D’Amico, USA Funds executive vice president, National Engagement and Philanthropy. “To ensure students get the most from their tuition dollars, they need to follow a more purposeful path through college and into rewarding careers, guided by real-time information about the needs of the labor market that students will enter following graduation.”

As a major enhancement to Complete College America’s Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) strategy, Purpose First will enable colleges to end current practices where students discover majors by wandering through a disorganized, smorgasbord curriculum – a process that often results in students taking excess credits and wasting valuable time and resources.

With Purpose First, students will choose majors – not just courses – through a redesigned process that puts them on the right path into and through a well-designed whole program of study. Students will be placed on highly structured degree maps containing sequences of guaranteed “critical path courses,” thereby enhancing and scaling institutional best practices proven to produce higher graduation and job placement rates.

“College students should not have to engage in random acts of enrollment as they chart their path through American higher education,” said Complete College America President Stan Jones. “By putting purpose first, we ensure they won’t have to. We give them a clear path to graduation day and provide them the tools necessary to get there.”

In the coming months, Complete College America will convene national experts in behavioral economics, predictive and workforce analytics, student advising and information technology to explore the design and development of Purpose First tools.