The June 23 edition of Inside Higher Ed featured a thoughtful essay by Mike Rose titled “Reassessing a Redesign of Community Colleges.” The essay discusses the guided pathways reform model that we described in our 2015 book, Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success.
We wrote the book because we perceived that more than a decade of reform in community colleges had failed to improve overall student outcomes. We attributed that failure to the organization and culture of the colleges, which were originally designed to expand student access to higher education rather than promote student completion. Under the typical arrangement, what we called the cafeteria-style approach, students face a sometimes bewildering array of courses, programs and support services without clear guidance on how to navigate them effectively.
The guided pathways model we described provides an organizing framework to pull together several intersecting reforms that affect the student experience. Those reforms encompass not only changes in college and program structure but also changes in pedagogy, advising and student support. The model we outlined is an integrated approach to college redesign aimed squarely at improving student completion and learning.
Rose speaks favorably of the overall model but raises two potential problems. First, faculty resistance may thwart the implementation of guided pathways, and our discussion of how to engage faculty members seems abstract. Second, students arrive at college with many outside challenges and little idea about what they want to do academically, and they will thus inevitably take a variety of different paths through college. Rose rightfully argues that some problems at community college will not be solved by the recommendations presented in the book and that those barriers may prevent the model from living up to its potential -- leading to discouragement and perhaps a backlash.
There is no question that guided pathways reforms will encounter many implementation challenges, and we did not intend to minimize the difficulty. In the book, we suggested that the implementation of guided pathways is at least a five-year process even under favorable circumstances. The structural reforms we recommend need to be coupled with real-world problem solving in the context of each college to overcome the challenges.
In fact, we are devoting the next phase of our research to refining what works and what doesn’t as colleges attempt the reforms. But we have already learned a lot from the field since the book was published. Institutions that seem to be making progress in implementing guided pathways reforms have leaders who have worked for a long time laying the groundwork for change -- any sort of change, not just guided pathways. Even in those institutions, dealing with the political and cultural dynamics that Rose describes is a constant (but necessary) process.
Many of those colleges have taken the first steps by engaging faculty members to examine and rethink their programs in light of what students need to learn to prepare for further education and employment -- in some cases, working with employers and faculty members from four-year colleges in the process. Colleges are bringing together advisers with academic departments to redesign the intake and first-year experiences of students to better help them explore and choose a program of study.
Recent work by Melinda Karp and other Community College Research Center researchers on the implementation of e-advising technologies (which are central to guided pathways) provides insight into the conditions under which colleges can accomplish such “transformational change.” They found that transformative change requires leadership at both the college and initiative levelswith a unified commitment to a shared vision for the reform and its goals. Still, we have far more to learn about how to effectively mobilize faculty and administrators in the implementation of guided pathways.
The Pressures on Students
Rose’s second point concerns the tremendous out-of-school challenges community college students can face that serve to undermine their academic success. As a result of those pressures, many students take convoluted pathways through colleges, stopping out and changing their purposes and goals. Guided pathways are not going to make those outside pressures fade away, but the reform model may indeed have more to offer the students who face such challenges than the smaller number of community college students who are well prepared, know what field they want to pursue and can attend full time and continuously.
First, the guided pathways model places particular importance on helping students explore and choose programs of study and potential careers. To be sure, many will change their minds, and that is fine. As it is, colleges do very little to enable students to explore options in a purposeful way so that they can see what is and what is not a good fit for them. Clarifying program pathways and improving the monitoring of progress for all students (especially by using default maps for program course sequences and tools that allow students to monitor their own progress) will be particularly helpful to part-time students or students who have to stop out.
More coherent pathways may also reduce the time to degree and thereby the probability that life events will derail a student’s college experience. And strong anecdotal evidence suggests that the guided pathways model increases the amount of quality time advisers spend with students, because they use less time scheduling students and more time talking about their plans. Early alert systems and predictive analytics are also being used to identify struggling students who need support but who probably would not have been identified in the past.
Rose certainly offers some important cautions. At the very least, he points to the need to make it clear that implementing guided pathways is a heavy lift that will take several years. In that process, will reformers be able to engage faculty members and administrators to redesign their colleges into coherent programs, and will they be able to help students overcome the difficult barriers they face, both in school and outside of it?
In the months since we published our book, reforms based on the guided pathways model have proliferated. We have identified numerous efforts by colleges in a majority of states to implement guided pathways at scale in their institutions. In almost all of those cases, the colleges are making such reforms without substantial grant funding.
At CCRC, we are now engaged in evaluations of some of those reforms in several states with an explicit goal of analyzing their successes and failures. Thus, over the next several years, we will get a much better sense of the ultimate effectiveness of the model. And we will be able to develop much better answers to the questions concerning implementation that Rose has raised.
Thomas Bailey is the George and Abby O'Neill Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and director of the Community College Research Center. Shanna Smith Jaggars is director of student success research for the office of distance education and e-learning at the Ohio State University in Columbus and former assistant director of CCRC. Davis Jenkins is a senior research associate at CCRC and directs its work on guided pathways.
Temple University President Neil D. Theobald does not seem to be going away quietly.
Theobald on Friday was the subject of a strongly supportive press release listing his accomplishments and saying that his focus “is on students and faculty.” The release, issued by a consulting and crisis communications firm, came days after Temple's Board of Trustees recorded a vote of no confidence in Theobald and announced its plans to fire him.
The board scheduled a vote on Theobald's removal for Thursday. The vote was scheduled only weeks after the president abruptly removed Hai-Lung Dai as provost, surprising many at Temple. Dai's removal came as a $22 million financial aid overrun was revealed.
Friday's news release on Theobald does not reference his possible removal. Instead, it references “the significant highlights of his first four years in office.” Highlights listed include improving Temple's research classification, increasing its funded research, boosting fund-raising, raising the university's ranking and bringing in large, academically strong and diverse student classes.
The release also includes supportive quotes from faculty and alumni.
The Lumina Foundation last week released a new series of white papers on how public colleges are responding to performance-based funding policies in their states. The five papers by outside experts follow two previous batches the foundation funded and produced. The latest round focuses on how colleges can structure their academic programs and finances to support student success.
Lumina said the papers "focus on how institutions can align internal finances, student supports and incentives, and educational delivery to respond to funding formulas that create incentives for on-time degree completion and year-over-year increases in the numbers of students of color and at-risk students who earn degrees or other credentials."
Professors and staff at the University of Texas at Austin may ban guns from their private offices if they choose to do so when the state’s campus carry law takes effect next month, the Board of Regents for the university system voted Wednesday. The vote followed months of argument from professors that the new law puts them at risk, including during office hours. At the same meeting, the regents voted down a controversial proposal backed by Austin President Gregory Fenves that would have banned handguns with a loaded chamber, The Texas Tribune reported. The votes were part of campus-based discussions about how exactly to comply with the new law, which permits guns on campus, including in classrooms.
The chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, is under investigation following allegations he misused public funds and used a campus fitness trainer without paying, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks was named in a whistle-blower complaint saying that he did not pay to use the campus Recreational Sports Facility and its professional services, the Times reported, citing an April 11 letter from the University of California's chief operating officer that it obtained. Dirks also allegedly used public funds to pay for travel with a recreational sports employee on non-university-related business. The travel allegations involve a January trip to India taken by the chancellor's wife -- a Berkeley associate history professor -- and a fitness trainer. A source told the newspaper the Berkeley Alumni Association paid for the trip.
The former director of the sports facility approved the free personal training after Dirks approached a trainer in 2013. That former director, Mike Weinberger, who has since retired, said he suggested free sessions as a way to improve the recreational sports department's standing against the more well-known athletic department. He compared the free training to free football game tickets that are handed out to boosters.
Weinberger also said he was not aware of a policy issue. The April 11 letter said the allegations amounted to "improper governmental activities," the Times reported.
A trainer involved in both the alleged fitness sessions and the India trip, Devin Wicks, has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. A spokesman said Dirks would not comment until the investigation's conclusion.
The investigation comes after Dirks has faced criticism on a number of fronts. He has been under fire for his handling of sexual abuse complains and taken flak from faculty members who claim he did not consult them in planning to reorganize departments and close a $150 million budget deficit. Controversy has also surrounded Dirks for spending $700,000 to build a security fence around his residence, aiming to keep out student protestors.
An Inside Higher Ed article published on Tuesday -- about a study that found the risk of forcible rape was higher at large, public institutions -- was incorrect. The author of the study later found a "typo in [his] coding" that led to the erroneous finding. While the author stands by the finding that undergraduate women at public universities are at greater risk of becoming victims of rape than those at private colleges, he said the size of a university had no significant effect on the risk of sexual victimization.
When Temple University President Neil D. Theobald ousted Provost Hai-Lung Dai last month, Dai did not directly respond to reports that he was responsible for a deficit of $22 million in the financial aid program. Leaks, however, suggested that this was the reason he lost his job as provost.
But this week, the board said it held Theobald responsible and said it was moving to fire him. Then Wednesday, Dai released a statement about the deficit: "I would like to address the allegations concerning the $22 million deficit. This involves a program that has greatly enhanced Temple’s reputation and has benefited many students. It has also resulted in a net gain to Temple in student enrollment and tuition. I was not informed of any deficit until March of this year. As the Board of Trustees said yesterday, the responsibility for managing budgetary matters rests with the president. I was never, at any time prior to March of 2016, asked by President Theobald to manage this issue. Once this issue was brought to my attention in March of this year and prior to my unjust dismissal, I actively began to take steps to address the overexpenditure."
Dai released a second statement disputing a statement Theobald reportedly circulated Monday saying that he fired Dai in part because of an allegation of sexual harassment against him. A Temple spokesman said that the board considered that charge to be baseless but felt obliged to investigate. In his statement Thursday, Dai said Theobald appeared to be referring to a retaliation complaint filed against him after Dai disciplined the person for "performance failures." Dai said that this mischaracterization of the complaint was unfair to him and his reputation.
"It has taken me a lifetime to build a name that I and my family can be proud of," Dai said. "My good reputation for integrity, honesty and professional excellence has been built day by day, challenge by challenge over the course of 62 years. It is my most precious possession. In the last several weeks I have stood silent and watched my personal and professional reputation be shattered by lies, half-truths and malicious innuendo because I trusted that truth would emerge from slander. But after yesterday’s events, I can no longer remain silent."
Case Western Reserve University will not hold classes, summer camps or other activities on its campus, which is located in Cleveland, during next week's Republican National Convention, reported Cleveland.com. The university made the decision to shut down most of its activities after hearing concerns from students and faculty members about its decision to house 1,700 police officers and 200 members of the Ohio National Guard during the convention. Some students had asked Case Western to require that the officers store their weapons off campus and to provide alternative housing for students who were uncomfortable with the police presence, according to the news outlet. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to clarify that some university activities will continue.)
In an email to campus, Barbara Snyder, Case Western's president, said the university made the decision to host the police officers at the request of the city and that city police had helped the campus police department when needed.
Snyder wrote that "in answering the city's convention request, we failed to give adequate consideration to the impact the decision would have on members of our community -- in particular students staying in residence halls near the buildings housing the officers."