How Guided Pathways Can Reduce a Student’s Time and Cost to Completion

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Ann Buchele, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Linn-Benton Community College, joined the podcast to discuss the big institution-wide lift and ROI return on establishing guided pathways and support for your students.

What we didn't want to do is continue to create a schedule where student had to get up at five am and they had thirty seconds to register for chemistry courts before it filled. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr and Buckley, Vice President of academic and Student Affairs at Lynne Benton Community College, and welcome to the show. It's great to be here. Really excited to have you here and get a chance to talk with you today about how to reduce a student's time and cost to completion through guided pathways. Before we dig in, can you give the listeners just a little bit of background on both Linn Benton Community College and your rule? They're sure so. Lynn Benton community college is in Albany, Oregon. It is Albany is about an hour and a half south of Portland. We're in the valley, describe, beautiful mountains on both sides. And my role at Lindbent in is as my title suggest I oversee the academic areas as well as the student as the student service areas. Through our guided pathways work, we actually combined both academic and student services. It's actually part of the role of guided pathways. So this is although I've been in this role for about seven years, I've had both academic and student services for the last two years. Awesome. And to kick us off, before we dig into a guided pathways strategy, can you just remind us and help us understand the broader problem that many community colleges has specifically are up against in successfully retaining and graduating their students? Absolutely, for all...

...the right reasons, community colleges are open access institutions and so you can imagine that, without it admission criteria we have, we have students that come at every level of preparedness. Some are ready to roll and others, you know, not quite so much. And because of that, you know, some students have a long way to go before they reach their goal and oftentimes life gets in their way. Families, jobs. You know, they're juggling so much and oftentimes I'll start and and not complete. So definitely a different type of challenge that community colleges have. You know, can confers compared to universities. Many of our students are also a community college is their one event, you know, away from either homelessness or not having transportation or having food insecurities, and so when those things happen it's they need to stop out, they need to stop going to college. And and often our students also kind of they come for a few terms and then they leave for a few terms and when you don't have that momentum it's often easy to then stop returning. And so because of that, community colleges nationwide for many, many, many years have had really very low completion rates. When we started Linn Bent and we started the guided pathways work, we were looking at it's an embarrassing number, but we're quite transparent. We are looking at eleven. Eleven percent of our students completed their goal in three years and it didn't get any better. At four years, or much better. We are at thirteen percent, and so we knew, like many other colleges have worked kind of moved into the guide to pathways work, then we needed to do something about it that it wasn't okay. Students were piling up a lot of debt, a lot of credits and not not getting their goal. So that's what how lb decided we needed to do something with our retention and completion rates Super Helpful context and and to...

...help solve for this problem within the beauty of open access. Can you give us a high level overview on both the concept and strategy of guided pathways? Sure guided pathways is is brilliantly as simple and as complicated as those two words, guided pathways. So you know, part of the guided pathways work. You know, the first word is a guide and in that is about helping a student find a person or a thing or a team that helps them along their path to completion. Me Back up a little bit. You know, the concept of guided pathways really is creating a culture change at our institutions, and and that when I mean that culture change, I mean you know, you've probably heard the term our students college ready, while with guided pathways work, you know, we look at it. Are Colleges Student Ready? So it's getting that mindset in. We have to meet the students, you know where they are. So one of the one of those aspects is again that guide, that advisor that we call them here at my college, navigators that help a student make decisions when it comes to from everything from entering a program, you know, their career decisions, as well as what they should take along that program and getting them ready to complete that program. And then the other aspect of guided pathways in a high level is is that pathway for completing you know, helping a student learn what courses they need to take and when they need to take when they need to take them so they're not going off the path or if they do go off the path, we call it, you know, if they begin to meander, they meand or on purpose, not accidentally, taking a course or series of courses that won't meet whatever it is their their their degree or their certificate goal is. And so we hit...

...my college call them program maps and we have program map for all of our eighty two certificate and degree programs, so a student can pull up that map to the program they're interested in and it tells them exactly what they need to take every term. And when it comes to electives, we have a drop down menu that shows them different choices, highly curated, so maybe just three or some choices that they could take if they're not interested in in the one that POPs on the map. And our maps also acknowledge that some students, many community college students, come in at a developmental education level. So it also helps them see if they if they do have a lower math and writing score, their map recalculates. So for guided pathways it has a complete, clear map for a student from Point A to point Z, as well as a go to group team person that guides them when they either have academic events or life events as well. We're also learning with guided pathways that that really that wrapper on student services supporting a student in all aspects of their life is really going to help them meet their goal. So it's kind of the high level of guided pathways, a guide in a path and and help us understand how and who in your institution came together and was involved in developing the creation, the mapping the support of these guided pathways. Well, we were fortunative enough to be one of thirty colleges selected in the in the United States through a bill of Melinda Gates Foundation grant to kind of launch into this, into this work, and so we had twenty nine other peer institutions that kind of supported US along the way. That was wonderful. And so at my college, and my role in this was to kind of be the team lead, the facilitator for LBCC. And and again I'll just kind of share all of...

...our dirty laundry or our mistakes, please do. We really kind of I don't know how to college, just kind of meandered and talked and brainstorm for there a good first year or two before we really landed on what we thought guided pathways would be at my college, Lynn Benton. And you know, it's not a one size fit sow. It's not a thing, it's not an initiative, it's not something you start and then you end. It's again, as I mentioned a while back, it's that culture change in so for us that lb you know, the first piece of our work was was creating that urgency for the college and getting everybody to college, understanding that we need to do something with our with our poor completion and our retention and completion rates, and and we needed to kind of have all hands on deck. So we created it what we called a core team and it was about twenty individuals made up of faculty, classified a managers and and and on and off student representatives that were tasked with of Gosh, we met for a while weekly and then it was every other week and it was kind of tasked with me being the champions of this work and figuring out what this work actually should be. And from that court team we had different work groups. So the core team was kind of our kind of our governance, which is a really strong word. I can't figure out a better word right now. Kind of governance, our go to group, our proval group when it came to our kind of pathways work. And then we had subgroups which we found very effective. So we had a group working on program mapping. What should our program maps be? What should they look like? How should we have our our departments, you know, populate those maps? We had a small group working on advising redesign. You know when we started that by doing an audit of our system, of our admission system and our advising system, and you know where, where were the students getting stuck? And we did a complete reboot on our...

...advising advising kind of with that group, we had a what we called an early alert subgroup, and that, again was a group that worked on how we could find students who were struggling academically and how could we get to them sooner. And that group actually created our first resort, which is our our student are over one place, our onestop shot for students to go with with any sort of issues. We had a scheduling subgroup. We knew that from our program maps. We wanted to populate our schedule. We wanted to create a schedule that actually had the courses the students needed when they needed so we want off our program maps to make sure that we we didn't want to do is continue to create a schedule where student had to get up at five am and they had thirty seconds to Rasister for a chemistry courts, you know, before it before it filled. We needed to stop that. We had a group doing that. We had an admission registration group who really streamlined our admissions process. We wanted a student to come to US feeling welcome from the first moment they thought LBCC was their college of choice all the way to the end. And then we had a group working at on the wreck model. You know, the other thing we we know in community to colleges is that students languish in developmental ad courses that oftentimes, especially in math, they give up before they ever even get to college level. So really working on trying to embed more support in our math and writing courses so a student doesn't have to take so much developmental ad. Our goal is to eliminate it all together, as well as bring in embedded tutoring into some of those courses so really students have support, you know, along the way. So those are some of our main subgroups and we know and then we had ad hoc, you know, at as it kind of we continued to work and then, as we were what I feel and why I feel that LB is arrived and that's kind...

...of, I don't know how better to say it, but that we we've really we've kind of embrace kind of pathways and it's just and we have reached that culture. Change is because we don't have these standing groups anymore. It's just embedded into our regular, everyday work. So we don't have these special guided pathways, subcommittees that are doing this work. We have committees now, standing committees that, you know, are working on these aspects as well as others which to me just it's just now part of our daily work and that's exciting. And I think you mentioned in your introduction and that this is this work is long term. This isn't a quick fix and we found in the first five years of this work that we're we've been in for about seven years now. The first five years of this work we didn't see our numbers change. We didn't see much retention difference, or just a little but not is our institution research office was saying, not enough to be meaningful. We didn't see a higher completion rate and that was that was hard, hard to take, because we were all working very hard on this. But in the last two years I'm excited to say that we have seen a difference. We have seen our fall to fallow retention improve and we have seen our completion improve. So it's it's people really have to stay the course. We are told when we started this it's a ten plus year commitment and I thought, wow, that is a long time, but it's true, it really is true, that you just have to keep staying on this path and you know, finally you'll see some benefits. Of students will see the benefits, which is really exciting. Yeah, and so I really really appreciate you digging deep into the weeds there and helping us understand that this guided pathway strategy requires a pretty large lift to be done right in order to make it effective for us. And I'm sure many listeners right now maybe throwing up their hands and claiming funding limitations,...

...resource limitations, time limitations, and I can't do that. Is there an Roi Story to help me be convince these skeptics that yes, this is worth doing? Oh, absolutely. I mean the wonderful thing about community college is, well, I think all all education. You know, we're not a special snowflake, but you know, it's about students, it's that's why we're here, and so I think working on completion rates and tension rates, helping students gain their goals with less debt, less credits, is the work that we all have to do. It it's you just can't turn away from that. To us, that's the Roi, you know. So we've been, you know, moving our percentages up about about five percent, but we're certainly, you know, far from from where we where we want to be. We just decided that this was our work and we weren't going to let this sounds so pollyanna like. I know that that we were not going to let funding limitations stop this work, and we didn't. The grant that we started with didn't fund our internal work. It only funded our travel to six institutes in three years. The work we had to do at our own college was, you know, was on our own budget and we just decided that we were going to reallocate time and resources, sometimes money, but, you know, to support this work, which means, you know, it meant that, you know, we had to decide, you know, what we were going to stop doing. That also meant that student or that our staff, faculty and staff, you know, is working harder or also working smarter. We stopped to doing crazy admission things that we're getting in the students way to help us streamline. So this was a lot of work, but in my college, as imagined, in most colleges, we're all very passionate about helping students and so for us this was you just couldn't, we just couldn't turn away from it. And now it's just easier. It's our it's we.

We have wonderful maps, we have a good, solid advising team approach, we have scheduling that works so much better than it did in the past. We hire differently now. When we hire, we especially with faculty. We want to make sure that when we hire, that we have faculty that that don't just think it's about teaching their discipline, but it's about supporting a student along their entire journey, which is different. It was a change for us and but important changes and such great stuff. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions? Listening and now excited rapped up. They're looking to either create or enhance their existing guided pathways. Where you recommend they start? First? Yeah, great question. And so again, as I mentioned before, starting by creating that urgency. You know, at the college's look at your data and and you will probably find you know, that your students aren't completing as much as you know you think that they would. So that is key advice and how you get everyone on board, because you want, every want at your college to be champion of this. So create the urgency and to make sure that you're really transparent with your data, because again, that's going to help create the urgency. And I think another takeaway for us and that we actually, I could accidentally, did a smart thing. We've got a great institutional restarts team who are afraid of nothing. So anytime we we started a different intervention, we made sure that we had an evaluation plan so we didn't continue to do something they didn't work. We make sure that we were looking at at that evaluation plan, you know, every so many months, years, depending on, you know, what it was, and that helped us figure out the biggest impacts, because it can. You can't do everything. We understand, you know, there's just so many hours of a day. So it's small chunks, but to make sure you know that you're looking...

...at what you're doing and then having the strength to stop doing if it's not making an impact, you know, but giving it enough time for sure. And then I got, and I can't say this enough, have fun on and celebrate the little things. We would just have crazy you know, in the world when we could meet together. You know, we would just have silly, silly parties, silly celebrations. You know, one little percentage point of something or one piece of software that worked or, you know, one great student story. You know, we would just, you know, just celebrate, because every one of those successes impacts the student and it you know, and it's all about the students, you know, meeting their goal. So again we also had fun chocolate health and thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sure so again, Lynne Benton community college, thus L I and and be and Tho n Community College in Albany. I'm there on the website, so you can click on me and that will get my email as well. As my email is is Bucchela at Lynne Benton Dot Edu. I'm there as well. So and I'm happy, happy, happy to help in any way. I'm also on the the Path Guided Pathways coaching website because I am a guided pathways coach for other colleges. So you can find me there under Anne Buckley Becch et Elle, and my college has done quite a bit of reaching out to other colleges who are starting this work and we've got a great team and we're very willing to do any sort of phone call or if in one we can travel. Again, you know, some travel as well, because we we do feel like we've made a good strides and when we like to share those successes and help in any way with our...

...with our peer institutions. You heard her, folks. She's opening up the door for you learn off their curve, and thanks against so much for joining us today. You're most welcome. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix educationcoms. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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