Clark Embarks On Pathways Plan to Boost Student Success

Clark administrators, faculty and staff kick off a five-year effort this Fall to streamline course offerings and boost the school’s 26 percent completion rate.

According to the Vice President of Planning and Effectiveness Shanda Diehl, the Guided Pathways model will have students choose between eight to 10 “pathways,” which are sequences of required and elective courses focused on the program of their choice. College officials hope this design will lead more students to transfer degrees or occupational certificates.

“This is unlike any other initiative we’ve had in the last seven years,” said sociology professor Don Ludwig. “75 percent of our students are first in their families to go to college. Many lack the support to navigate college systems.”

Diehl said Clark currently operates in a self-service or “cafeteria” model, allowing students to choose between disconnected courses, programs and support services.

Diehl said many students have difficulty navigating these choices. They end up making poor decisions about which program to enter, which courses to take and when to seek help, which can lead students to drop out of college.

However, according to the Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook, the cost of implementing the new model is still unclear. “Some colleges have not used additional money, while others have said it could be upwards of $500,000,” Cook said. He explained that part of this year’s work would be determining what the program “will cost Clark in time and money.”

Cook said the first year will be spent introducing the model to faculty and staff.

Cook said the goal is to have a pathway for every degree or certificate the college offers by the end of the five-year implementation plan.

Cook also said that moving into the initial phases of the plan would mean engaging in tough conversations. “Some classes won’t fit into a pathway, and this is going to be hard for some faculty who have taught a class for a long time.” Cook said that, while those classes will continue to be offered, students will be mostly signing up for courses within the pathways, so “it’s quite likely that some classes will go away.”

At a Board of Trustees meeting last June, Faculty Union President and English professor Kimberly Sullivan requested a student roundtable this Fall to allow students to discuss their needs with administration.

One Comment

  1. Nadia Jones

    Hopefully, they’ll implement this model. I agree that Clark does not make it easy for students to navigate its programs and doesn’t guide them much through the process. I wonder if those pathways only offer job specific classes.

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