Take a walk with me out of your office and into the nearest parking lot. Stand there for a moment and imagine that you have never been to college, no one in your family has been to college, and your best resource for figuring out college is a friend of yours who is in their first quarter of classes. You’ve been told that going to college means a better paying job. As you stand in the parking lot and look at the buildings, which one should you go in? Who will you ask to find out “how do I get in”, “how am I going to pay for this” and “what classes should I take for the job I want”? Stand in the parking lot for a moment and consider that the answers to those questions, are set up in a complex system which fundamentally assumes that you know what you are doing and who to ask for help. Consider terms like curriculum guide, prerequisite, credits, and acronyms like DTA, FAFSA, and COMPASS which are crucial for navigating the college system and ask yourself if someone like you, who’s best resource is a friend in their first quarter, will be able to make it? If you want to earn a transfer degree you will have to figure out what a Humanities, Social Science, and Science requirement is and to determine, for example, which of the 135 options of Humanities classes you should take, whether they are offered this quarter, and whether the times and dates will work with your work schedule. You will do this task probably on your own unless you figure out the value of a program advisor (another new role you are not familiar with) and get connected to one prior to the end of your second quarter. It’s highly likely that you will pay for classes you don’t need, possible that you will register for classes for which you are not adequately prepared, and that you will eventually give up on this process and become one of the 75% of students at EvCC who entered planning to earn a degree but who do not complete it. (Data collected in 2015 EvCC Institutional Research)
As faculty we believe passionately in the power of learning, the transformative change possible in people who arrive at our classes on the first day and who leave more knowledgeable and better equipped on the last day. We work incredibly hard, devoting countless hours to helping the students in our classes succeed. While what happens in our classrooms may be stellar, the scenario above points out that our organizational structure needs adjustment; we need a different model of how we get students into our classes. This is not a structural change which an administrator can develop and implement, it must come from faculty who are experts in their discipline who know what kind of skills are needed for the jobs in their fields and how best to help students acquire those skills as part of completing a degree. The organizational change I am talking about, which requires us to examine what we do with a lens for smoothing out some of the road blocks in a student’s journey, is fundamental to the guided pathways model. We have the opportunity to apply for a grant from College Spark for $500,000 over five years to financially aid us as we fix the issues we know need solutions. By applying for this grant the administration of the college is taking steps to secure financial support for the work that we will do to craft the changes we want to see at EvCC. The deadline for this grant is coming up quickly on April 21. A requirement of the application is a letter of support from our faculty union or the Faculty Forum. If you think this money will be helpful to our work here at EvCC as we move forward in ways that improve a student’s abilities to attain their educational goals, please contact one of your AFT officers and attend the next Faculty Forum to express your support for guided pathways.