Community colleges that are exploring ways to dramatically improve persistence, completion and transfer outcomes for their students frequently ask about the relationship between two highly touted “branded” approaches: Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and guided pathways. ASAP was created by the City University of New York (CUNY) to serve low-income students enrolling full time and has been found to be highly effective as evaluated by both MDRC and CUNY.
Guided pathways is a framework for higher education reform championed by many community college reform advocates; it emphasizes higher levels of structure and support and early entry into well-defined pathways with clear road maps to completion.
Both guided pathways and ASAP are designed to significantly increase community college degree completion. At a high level, they have similar perspectives, rooted in a common understanding of the following factors:
• AN EMPIRICAL REALITY: low completion rates at the nation’s community colleges
• A CRITIQUE OF CURRENT COMMUNITY COLLEGE
PRIORITIES: too little emphasis on structure, acceleration, outcome-focused student support, and completion
• AN APPROACH TO IMPROVING OUTCOMES: the need for integrated, comprehensive institutional reform efforts that make the path to completion more transparent to students and provide a structure and set of support services that help more students succeed
We have argued that instead of expecting students to find their own way through college, colleges need to create clear, educationally coherent program pathways that are aligned with students’ end goals, help students explore and select a pathway of interest, and track and support students’ progress along their chosen pathway.
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