Can GPS help students graduate on time?

In its core mission, GPS seeks to refine the higher education system by minimizing major inhibitors to graduating on time, such as credits lost in transfer, essential courses being unavailable, students not taking enough credits in a given semester, uninformed choice of majors, and sometimes unnecessary credit requirements.

Though GPS still allows for plenty of elective options and provides some freedom for exploration, the pathways helps students have a clearer sense of how they need to progress. GPS can also help undecided students to choose a major: By examining which early electives students chose to take and performed well, GPS can begin to suggest informed “meta major” options for students.

In many ways, GPS says it represents a partnership between students and institutions. When students agree to follow Guided Pathways to Success, they must take certain “essential” courses every semester so that they continue to get a “realistic picture” of their majors from the onset, instead of putting off difficult courses until changing majors becomes too drastic or expensive.

In turn, schools work to provide students with clear degree maps, make available critical courses when needed, and closely monitor student progress through extensive academic advising to ensure that students are accommodated as well as possible.

From this partnership, students and institutions will be able to maintain a constant dialogue, says GPS, allowing feedback from students to help shape and refine the Pathways in order to make the goal of graduating on time as easy as possible.

So far, institutions that make up Complete College America’s Alliance of States have implemented GPS strategies say they have found great success. For example, 20 states have either statewide or campus-based “15 to Finish” initiatives that encourage students to take 15 credits per semester or at least 30 credits per year in order to graduate on time. 22 states (and Washington D.C.) have committed to transforming remediation in order to see gains in the percentage of students who complete college-level math and English gateway courses within one year.

Additionally, almost every state seems to make some progress when they implement GPS strategies. Arizona State University, for instance, has seen an increase of 16 percent of students graduating on time since integrating GPS strategies within their eAdvisor system. Thanks to funding from the Lumina Foundation, Indiana, Georgia, and Tennessee are working to take implementation of GPS to scale. D.C., Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., and Ohio are implementing GPS strategies in STEM initiatives.

For a full state-by-state breakdown and a host of case studies that provide detail on how to best implement Guided Pathways to Success, check out Complete College America’s full report.