Guided Pathways to Success— A “Game Changer” for Midland CollegeOctober 24, 2017

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. MC Commencement Ceremony, May 2017

#StartStriveSucceed

For the past three years, Midland College (MC) has been designing and implementing “Guided Pathways to Success”—a new comprehensive educational model with coherent maps that are aligned for program completion, quality credentials, workforce skills and transferability for baccalaureate and graduate degrees. 

In 2014, MC recognized the need to find innovative ways to increase levels of postsecondary educational attainment for its students.  The longer it takes students to graduate, the more it costs students and the taxpayers who subsidize them.  An extra semester of college costs Midland College students approximately $1,500!

Wasting money isn’t the only consequence of running the clock.  The longer it takes students to graduate, the more life gets in the way.  As the calendar turns, students find their lives increasingly taken over by jobs, relationships, marriages, children and mortgages.  For too many students, the end results are a few years of courses and no degrees or credentials, resulting in poor wages and unrewarding careers.  The opportunity for quality employment and a rewarding adult life largely depends upon completing a postsecondary academic credential. 

“Approximately three years ago we began to redesign processes so that students have a clear direction and ‘path’ in their higher education goals,” explained MC President Dr. Steve Thomas.  “We decided it was time for game changer strategies that will permanently increase completion rates.  We did extensive research as to how we could best empower our students for this goal attainment.”

As a result, MC restructured all of its programs of study into eight major areas of interest from which students can choose their degree path.  Since 2014 and the implementation of MC’s Guided Pathways to Success, completion rates have increased from 605 students in May 2014 to 888 students in May 2017. 

“The college’s increased completion rates reflect our commitment to student success,” said MC Dean of Enrollment Management Liz Zenteno.  “Navigating the many processes leading to a college certificate, degree or successful transfer can be daunting and confusing for our students.  With the implementation of Pathways Advising and assigned advisors in Student Services, we are seeing more students taking the right courses from the start, returning the following semesters and completing a credential or transfer plan as anticipated—without a lot of course credits they don’t need.  Completing coursework and/or credentials on schedule accelerates students’ opportunity to advance in the job market or transfer to a four-year college to complete a bachelor’s degree.”

By building highly structured degree plans as “pathways” to on-time graduation, MC has placed every student on the road to success.  Students at MC are no longer considered “unclassified,” “undeclared” or “General Studies” majors.  All students now know the way forward to graduation, and semester-by-semester plans are laid out for every student.

 “The new Pathways model has forced us to look at and refine not only instructional components, but also systems and services, such as advising, web services, admission, financial aid and business office operations," stated Thomas.

Thomas said that the restructuring was a cultural shift for the college and has even prompted the development of the Support Our Students (SOS) network.  The SOS project is employee-driven and provides counseling, mentoring and financial support to students so that they can stay in school, obtain a credential and begin a rewarding career.

In addition, the MC Board of Trustees has approved a new mission statement and strategic plan that reflects the college’s commitment to student success and on-time completion.  MC employees will be using the phrase #StartStriveSucceed to emphasize the new pathways model and strategic plan directed toward student success.

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