$500,000 grant brings new paths to Pierce College

College Spark Washington and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges grants Pierce half of a million dollars.

Daniel Pollock, Reporter

Pierce College’s future changed after College Spark Washington and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges awarded the school a $500,000 grant. The grant is focused on implementing Guided Pathways, a system designed to simplify college course decisions.

With Guided Pathways, each degree concentration will have a separate “road map,” meaning a new student’s class schedule will be fully planned for the two years they study at Pierce. Vice President of Learning and Student Success Matthew Campbell compares it with Google Maps, where there are default directions, but also alternative routes; for choosing some classes, the final choice is the students’.

“Right now, the way we’re structured, there’s maybe a thousand ways to get from point A to point B for an associate degree,” Campbell said. “The Pathway picks the most direct route and makes that suggestion.”

All degrees and certificates will be categorized into different concentrations, such as humanities, science, technology, engineering, math and healthcare. Each concentration will have a set class plan, or path. When a student comes to the college, they choose a path based on their interest. If the student doesn’t have a specific interest, they can choose a broader plan to find a subject that attracts them. Students can switch to another path if their main interest changes.

The Washington Student Achievement Council estimates 700,000 students in Washington attended a university or community college between 2009 and 2015 without reaching a degree.

“The idea (of Pathways) is to as quickly as possible get students on a path towards a career,” Marty Cavalluzzi, Pierce College Puyallup president, said. “The data shows if we don’t do that, the more they flounder around and the less successful they will be.”

Financial Aid covers only two years of community college. The intent of Pathways is to ensure students graduate before their Financial Aid deadline ends. Pathways can help students take classes in the correct order and in the correct quarter, making certain they graduate within two years.

At Pierce, 64 percent of students are the first generation of their family to pursue a higher education. These are students who don’t have family to help them understand the technical world of college, the definitions of higher education jargon or in which order to take classes. Pathways is designed to make college clearer and more accessible for these students.

Pathways will be implemented in fall quarter of 2018. The grant, paid in $100,000 increments over the next five years, will help pay for faculty, along with consultants, to design each class plan.

Campbell and Cavalluzzi believe Guided Pathways will make a student’s success at Pierce even more achievable.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Daniel Pollock

$500,000 grant brings new paths to Pierce College

by Daniel Pollock time to read: 2 min