St. Petersburg College has been selected as one of only 30 community colleges in the nation to participate in a three-year intensive Pathways Project, led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Supported by funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Pathways Project will help build capacity for community colleges to design and implement high-quality, structured academic and career pathways for all students, aligned for both university transfer and jobs with value in the labor market.
“The development of our Academic and Career Pathways Program has been a priority initiative at St. Petersburg College over the last few years, and we are honored to be recognized as a leader in this area,” said SPC President Bill Law. “This designation builds on the work we’ve done to implement meaningful support systems to help students successfully earn degrees and certifications more quickly – while mitigating debt burdens – so they can find gainful employment and boost their earnings. We know these systematic steps change students’ lives and benefit our community in countless ways.”This fall, SPC successfully launched 184 academic and career pathways within 95 certificate, associate and bachelor degree programs that were developed to provide students with a logical sequence of courses offerings and embedded programmatic certificates and industry recognized certifications.
The purpose is to provide students with a clear and concise roadmap to graduation, while allowing them to earn stackable credentials along the way that can increase their earning potential. While the pathways provide students guidance on the most effective sequencing and number of classes to take each semester – as well as clarity regarding which semester courses are offered – students still have a great deal of flexibility in their choices.
The pathways include comprehensive wraparound support services and a robust integration of curriculum designed with input from with local industry leaders to ensure students are workforce ready at graduation.
“We have taken the guesswork out of course selection to ensure that students can achieve academic milestones more quickly, so they can get into the workforce or move up in their careers sooner,” said Jesse Coraggio, SPC’s Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Academic Services. “Pathways are going to revolutionize the way students progress along their academic journeys, and allow them to gain credentials along the way that will help them earn more in their respective fields.”
St. Petersburg College is one of only four colleges in the state to be selected for the program. The others include Broward College, Indian River State College and Tallahassee Community College.
Building on emerging research and experience in the field, the project reflects AACC’s commitments to follow through on recommendations set forth in the 2012 report of the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, Reclaiming the American Dream, and the 2014 implementation guide, Empowering Community Colleges to Build the Nation’s Future.
Since 2012, St. Petersburg College has focused on improving student success by using intensive and collegewide analysis of student data. SPC created the College Experience, an ambitious series of five core student success interventions that were simultaneously executed based on the belief that in order to truly identify and address barriers to student achievement, the college must employ a holistic and comprehensive strategy. Among those efforts, career counseling and academic planning were integrated to provide students clear educational paths that lead to employment. SPC’s Academic and Career Pathways Program is the culmination of those efforts.
College Experience support services and interventions have resulted in successfully increasing student achievement across the board, and in particular for First-Time-In-College (FTIC) students and African American and Hispanic males. This kind of analysis allows for SPC to better understand student performance over time – analyzing how students are performing and why, and which students are falling behind and when – to focus efforts where large-scale gains can be attained.
As part of the AACC Pathways Project, SPC will collaborate with institutions that have complementary goals and student success-centered practices that could be scaled or replicated. As part of the project, SPC will work with Pathways Project colleges to determine:
- how students experience and understand program pathways, and the career and further education opportunities to which they lead
- how prescriptive should colleges be regarding students’ program-related decisions
- what supports help students choose and enter a program of study efficiently
- the costs to redesign colleges’ new student intake processes to help students better choose and enter a program of study
“I truly believe SPC’s Academic and Career Pathways Program is a ‘game-changer’ for our students,” Law said. “So, we are particularly excited to share what we’ve learned, have the opportunity to learn from others, and collaborate with colleges and partnering institutions to help develop a sustainable model for educational institutions across the nation.”
Six institutes will be held over the course of the three-year program. A team of five SPC representatives will attend the first of the AACC institutes in San Antonio, Texas in February, 2016.