Much of Kilgore College’s May 6 board retreat-meeting was used to discuss a program to create a “pathway” for students who plan to attend Kilgore College after high school.
The Texas Pathways program establishes a structured path for students to follow through a network of “on-ramps.”
In the pathways model, high school students participate in structured programs that transfer to colleges to help them on their path to a certificate or associates degree – in turn helping them move on to a four-year university or into a job.
“Central to the pathways model are clear, educationally-coherent program maps, which include specific course sequences, progress milestones, and program learning outcomes, that are aligned to what will be expected of students upon program completion in the workforce and in education at the next level in a given field,” a presentation from Kilgore College President Brenda Kays explains.
The model helps simplify students’ decision making in high school and helps make the paths more predictable.
The four essential practices of the Guided Pathways model is to clarify paths to students’ end goals, to help students choose and enter pathways, to help students stay on path and to ensure that students are learning.
“We spent a good portion of the retreat on this topic,” Kays wrote in an email. “Three of us attended a Board of Trustees Institute (BOTI) in March that totally revolved around this topic… This is going to be a recurring theme in the months and years to come.”
Throughout Texas, 38 community colleges, which cover 86 percent of the state and 700,000 students have committed to the program.
Trustee Brian Nutt attended the BOTI program and reported back to his fellow board members. “College students are more likely to complete a degree in a timely fashion if they choose a program and develop and academic plan early on, have a clear road map of the courses they need to take to complete a credential, and receive guidance and support to help them stay on plan,” he said.
In an example, Nutt’s presentation showed out of 100 eighth graders enrolled in school in fall 2004, 68 graduated from high school, 54 went on to enroll in higher education and 20 graduated from an institute of higher education with a certificate or degree. Of those 20 students who graduated from a college or university, one received a certificate, four earned an associate’s degree and 15 graduated with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Creating a sense of urgency, Nutt’s presentation went on to say, “34 percent of Texans 25 to 34 have an associate’s degree or higher. In a bygone era, that was good enough. But, we’re no longer in a bygone era; 59 percent of all new jobs in Texas will require postsecondary training or education by 2020.”
To establish pathways, Kays and other trustees who attended the Board of Trustees Institute explained what they as a group must do locally.
Among the commitments the college’s leaders must accept are to emphasize the importance of students earning their certificates or degrees and allot adequate funding to reflect those priorities.
The trustees, according to the document from Kays, must commit to monitor statistics, such as completion rates, and Kays as president must commit to promote faculty leadership and engagement and communicate with KC employees to use the recorded data and improve where needed.
The college’s “vision for student success and completion” should be shared by stakeholders at the college and in the community.
Also, the board must commit to “encourage transparency and communication about college priorities and challenges.” Kays then must commit to “promote collaboration across the institution on improvement efforts” and “share data on graduation and completion rates in ways that are meaningful and useful to different groups of stakeholders.”
Both data and stakeholder impact should be used by both the board and Kays “to inform planning and budget decisions.”
The board will receive another document about the pathways model in July before a budget discussion.