For some college students, choosing between the wide array of future career possibilities can be a difficult decision and can result in taking extra, unnecessary credits. Lower Columbia College is looking to fix that.

On Jan. 11, the community and technical college received a $1 million grant from the education foundation College Spark Washington and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to adopt the Guided Pathways initiative.

Guided Pathways, according to LCC’s vice president of instruction, Brendan Glaser, is a methodology that helps colleges rethink how they map out their programs and services. It particularly focuses on simplifying the process in how students choose career paths.

“Guided Pathways seeks to simplify the pathway through various programs to some end-goal – job, degree, transfer, whatever – and then provide services that help students understand that pathway, stay on it, get feedback about how they’re doing and know what their options are,” he said.

Glaser added that students have an overwhelming number of options, which can result in wasted time and money in trying to figure out exactly what they enjoy studying.

“If students are confused about which courses to take to get to a particular goal … they tend to make mistakes, and they end up taking a lot of extra classes. So it costs them more,” he said. “One of things that we expect to happen (with Guided Pathways) is to lower the number of excess credits that a student would take. They can get to where they want to get more efficiently.”

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Glaser, along with fellow LCC vice presidents Wendy Hall and Sue Orchard, said the $1 million grant will be used for giving stipends to faculty, who will be working extra hours to learn the new strategy; hiring a new researcher, who will be focused exclusively on student success; and applying technology that will help students identify career goals earlier and stay on their chosen career pathway.

Hall said the goal of Guided Pathways is to increase completion rates at the college.

Glaser added that he hopes the program should make the college experience less confusing.

“For years, we really focused on trying to make students college-ready; Now, it’s time for us to focus on making colleges student-ready,” he said. “College shouldn’t have to be a mystery or a puzzle that you come to and have to figure out have to navigate through.”

Other colleges in Washington, including Renton Community College, Clover Park Technical College, Spokane Falls Community College and Tacoma Community College, also received Guided Pathways funding.

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