One of the benefits of Pathways is that it helps students explore a variety of different related programs without credit loss. However, it does not explicitly address the needs of students who may want to change their pathway entirely. At present, many community colleges do not have an infrastructure in place to seamlessly facilitate this sort of change without significant credit accumulation and delays. This is especially evident in the case of high-performing students who may not meet the requirements to enter or remain in a particularly competitive program.
When these students—who may often fly under the radar of at-risk early alert systems—are turned away from pursuing a field of interest, they are faced with a serious dilemma of whether or not to remain at the institution. Often, colleges don’t identify these students until after they’ve been rejected and risk intervening when it is too late to prevent students from stopping out.
To prevent these high-achieving students from stopping out of the college altogether, Volunteer State Community College takes a proactive approach by identifying at-risk students in advance and offering them alternative opportunities that still fit their long-term goals. Partnering with a data analytics team, Vol State matches students with a new major that aligns with their career interests and minimizes the amount of excess credits needed for completion. Once a match has been found, advisors send students an “acceptance letter,” congratulating them on their achievement and highlighting the opportunities presented by the new program.
The experience of being turned away from a dream program or career is a distressing one for students. Vol State advisors are sensitive to this and are careful to present the program switch as an accomplishment and a chance for students to embrace new opportunities. They are also proactive in following up with students who don’t respond to their acceptance letter, to ensure that all students receive a face-to-face meeting to discuss their future prospects.