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 iscontinue to create a schedule where student had to get up at five am andthey had thirty seconds to register for chemistry courts before it filled. You're listeningto enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for highereducation leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're lookingfor fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come tothe right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growthuniversity, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olsonwith Helix Education and we're here today with Dr and Buckley, Vice President ofacademic 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 geta chance to talk with you today about how to reduce a student's time andcost to completion through guided pathways. Before we dig in, can you givethe listeners just a little bit of background on both Linn Benton Community College andyour 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. Andmy role at Lindbent in is as my title suggest I oversee the academic areasas well as the student as the student service areas. Through our guided pathwayswork, we actually combined both academic and student services. It's actually part ofthe role of guided pathways. So this is although I've been in this rolefor about seven years, I've had both academic and student services for the lasttwo years. Awesome. And to kick us off, before we dig intoa guided pathways strategy, can you just remind us and help us understand thebroader problem that many community colleges has specifically are up against in successfully retaining andgraduating their students? Absolutely, for all...

...the right reasons, community colleges areopen access institutions and so you can imagine that, without it admission criteria wehave, we have students that come at every level of preparedness. Some areready to roll and others, you know, not quite so much. And becauseof that, you know, some students have a long way to gobefore 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 andnot 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 acommunity college is their one event, you know, away from either homelessnessor not having transportation or having food insecurities, and so when those things happen it'sthey 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 andthen they leave for a few terms and when you don't have that momentum it'soften easy to then stop returning. And so because of that, community collegesnationwide for many, many, many years have had really very low completion rates. When we started Linn Bent and we started the guided pathways work, wewere looking at it's an embarrassing number, but we're quite transparent. We arelooking at eleven. Eleven percent of our students completed their goal in three yearsand it didn't get any better. At four years, or much better.We are at thirteen percent, and so we knew, like many other collegeshave worked kind of moved into the guide to pathways work, then we neededto do something about it that it wasn't okay. Students were piling up alot 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 andcompletion rates Super Helpful context and and to...

...help solve for this problem within thebeauty of open access. Can you give us a high level overview on boththe concept and strategy of guided pathways? Sure guided pathways is is brilliantly assimple and as complicated as those two words, guided pathways. So you know,part of the guided pathways work. You know, the first word isa guide and in that is about helping a student find a person or athing or a team that helps them along their path to completion. Me Backup a little bit. You know, the concept of guided pathways really iscreating a culture change at our institutions, and and that when I mean thatculture change, I mean you know, you've probably heard the term our studentscollege ready, while with guided pathways work, you know, we look at it. Are Colleges Student Ready? So it's getting that mindset in. Wehave to meet the students, you know where they are. So one ofthe one of those aspects is again that guide, that advisor that we callthem here at my college, navigators that help a student make decisions when itcomes 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 readyto complete that program. And then the other aspect of guided pathways in ahigh level is is that pathway for completing you know, helping a student learnwhat courses they need to take and when they need to take when they needto take them so they're not going off the path or if they do gooff the path, we call it, you know, if they begin tomeander, they meand or on purpose, not accidentally, taking a course orseries of courses that won't meet whatever it is their their their degree or theircertificate goal is. And so we hit...

...my college call them program maps andwe 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 andit tells them exactly what they need to take every term. And when itcomes 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 takeif they're not interested in in the one that POPs on the map. Andour maps also acknowledge that some students, many community college students, come inat a developmental education level. So it also helps them see if they ifthey do have a lower math and writing score, their map recalculates. Sofor guided pathways it has a complete, clear map for a student from PointA to point Z, as well as a go to group team person thatguides them when they either have academic events or life events as well. We'realso learning with guided pathways that that really that wrapper on student services supporting astudent in all aspects of their life is really going to help them meet theirgoal. So it's kind of the high level of guided pathways, a guidein a path and and help us understand how and who in your institution cametogether and was involved in developing the creation, the mapping the support of these guidedpathways. Well, we were fortunative enough to be one of thirty collegesselected in the in the United States through a bill of Melinda Gates Foundation grantto kind of launch into this, into this work, and so we hadtwenty nine other peer institutions that kind of supported US along the way. Thatwas wonderful. And so at my college, and my role in this was tokind of be the team lead, the facilitator for LBCC. And andagain 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, justkind of meandered and talked and brainstorm for there a good first year or twobefore 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 youstart 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, thefirst piece of our work was was creating that urgency for the college and gettingeverybody to college, understanding that we need to do something with our with ourpoor completion and our retention and completion rates, and and we needed to kind ofhave all hands on deck. So we created it what we called acore team and it was about twenty individuals made up of faculty, classified amanagers 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 andit was kind of tasked with me being the champions of this work and figuringout what this work actually should be. And from that court team we haddifferent work groups. So the core team was kind of our kind of ourgovernance, which is a really strong word. I can't figure out a better wordright now. Kind of governance, our go to group, our provalgroup when it came to our kind of pathways work. And then we hadsubgroups which we found very effective. So we had a group working on programmapping. What should our program maps be? What should they look like? Howshould we have our our departments, you know, populate those maps?We had a small group working on advising redesign. You know when we startedthat by doing an audit of our system, of our admission system and our advisingsystem, 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 strugglingacademically and how could we get to them sooner. And that group actually createdour first resort, which is our our student are over one place, ouronestop shot for students to go with with any sort of issues. We hada scheduling subgroup. We knew that from our program maps. We wanted topopulate our schedule. We wanted to create a schedule that actually had the coursesthe students needed when they needed so we want off our program maps to makesure that we we didn't want to do is continue to create a schedule wherestudent had to get up at five am and they had thirty seconds to Rasisterfor a chemistry courts, you know, before it before it filled. Weneeded to stop that. We had a group doing that. We had anadmission registration group who really streamlined our admissions process. We wanted a student tocome to US feeling welcome from the first moment they thought LBCC was their collegeof choice all the way to the end. And then we had a group workingat on the wreck model. You know, the other thing we weknow 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 collegelevel. So really working on trying to embed more support in our math andwriting courses so a student doesn't have to take so much developmental ad. Ourgoal is to eliminate it all together, as well as bring in embedded tutoringinto some of those courses so really students have support, you know, alongthe way. So those are some of our main subgroups and we know andthen we had ad hoc, you know, at as it kind of we continuedto work and then, as we were what I feel and why Ifeel that LB is arrived and that's kind...

...of, I don't know how betterto say it, but that we we've really we've kind of embrace kind ofpathways and it's just and we have reached that culture. Change is because wedon't have these standing groups anymore. It's just embedded into our regular, everydaywork. So we don't have these special guided pathways, subcommittees that are doingthis 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 justnow part of our daily work and that's exciting. And I think you mentionedin your introduction and that this is this work is long term. This isn'ta quick fix and we found in the first five years of this work thatwe're we've been in for about seven years now. The first five years ofthis 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 thatwas that was hard, hard to take, because we were all working very hardon this. But in the last two years I'm excited to say thatwe have seen a difference. We have seen our fall to fallow retention improveand we have seen our completion improve. So it's it's people really have tostay the course. We are told when we started this it's a ten plusyear commitment and I thought, wow, that is a long time, butit's true, it really is true, that you just have to keep stayingon this path and you know, finally you'll see some benefits. Of studentswill see the benefits, which is really exciting. Yeah, and so Ireally really appreciate you digging deep into the weeds there and helping us understand thatthis guided pathway strategy requires a pretty large lift to be done right in orderto make it effective for us. And I'm sure many listeners right now maybethrowing up their hands and claiming funding limitations,...

...resource limitations, time limitations, andI can't do that. Is there an Roi Story to help me beconvince these skeptics that yes, this is worth doing? Oh, absolutely.I mean the wonderful thing about community college is, well, I think allall 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 thinkworking on completion rates and tension rates, helping students gain their goals with lessdebt, 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 theRoi, you know. So we've been, you know, moving our percentages upabout about five percent, but we're certainly, you know, far fromfrom where we where we want to be. We just decided that this was ourwork and we weren't going to let this sounds so pollyanna like. Iknow 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 workwe had to do at our own college was, you know, was onour own budget and we just decided that we were going to reallocate time andresources, sometimes money, but, you know, to support this work,which means, you know, it meant that, you know, we hadto decide, you know, what we were going to stop doing. Thatalso 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 thingsthat we're getting in the students way to help us streamline. So thiswas a lot of work, but in my college, as imagined, inmost colleges, we're all very passionate about helping students and so for us thiswas you just couldn't, we just couldn't turn away from it. And nowit's just easier. It's our it's we.

We have wonderful maps, we havea good, solid advising team approach, we have scheduling that works so muchbetter than it did in the past. We hire differently now. When wehire, we especially with faculty. We want to make sure that whenwe hire, that we have faculty that that don't just think it's about teachingtheir discipline, but it's about supporting a student along their entire journey, whichis different. It was a change for us and but important changes and suchgreat stuff. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions? Listening and nowexcited rapped up. They're looking to either create or enhance their existing guided pathways. Where you recommend they start? First? Yeah, great question. And soagain, as I mentioned before, starting by creating that urgency. Youknow, at the college's look at your data and and you will probably findyou know, that your students aren't completing as much as you know you thinkthat they would. So that is key advice and how you get everyone onboard, because you want, every want at your college to be champion ofthis. So create the urgency and to make sure that you're really transparent withyour data, because again, that's going to help create the urgency. AndI 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 afraidof nothing. So anytime we we started a different intervention, we made surethat we had an evaluation plan so we didn't continue to do something they didn'twork. 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'sjust so many hours of a day. So it's small chunks, but tomake sure you know that you're looking...

...at what you're doing and then havingthe 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 Ican't say this enough, have fun on and celebrate the little things. Wewould 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 softwarethat worked or, you know, one great student story. You know,we would just, you know, just celebrate, because every one of thosesuccesses 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 chocolatehealth and thank you so much for your time today. What's the best placefor listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sureso again, Lynne Benton community college, thus L I and and be andTho n Community College in Albany. I'm there on the website, so youcan click on me and that will get my email as well. As myemail 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'malso on the the Path Guided Pathways coaching website because I am a guided pathwayscoach for other colleges. So you can find me there under Anne Buckley Becchet Elle, and my college has done quite a bit of reaching out toother colleges who are starting this work and we've got a great team and we'revery willing to do any sort of phone call or if in one we cantravel. Again, you know, some travel as well, because we wedo feel like we've made a good strides and when we like to share thosesuccesses and help in any way with our...

...with our peer institutions. You heardher, 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 datadriven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrivein this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition oftheir enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solvetoday'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 ensurethat you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favoritepodcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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