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Having community college students choose a course roadmap pays off for Peninsula College

Eric Neurath
Peninsula College
Peninsula College's rate of students graduating or transfering out to another college has climbed 47 percent in the past five years.

Community and technical colleges across Washington state are working to increase the percentage of students who graduate or transfer to another college or university.

Peninsula College in Port Angeles has had the biggest increase in the past five years. The college’s rate of full-time students graduating or transferring to another college has jumped by 47 percent since the 2013-14 school year. The school’s rate reached 62.1 percent this school year, according to statistics from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The average rate for all technical and community colleges in the state has climbed 9.5 percent over the past five years and reached 53 percent this school year.

Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College, said there are a number of reasons why the success rate has gone up. One is that the college, like some other campuses in the state, has begun using what are called guided pathways.

“A student has what we call a program map that basically says these are the courses you need to take, this is more or less the order you need to take them in,” Robins said. “And if you do these sorts of things, you’re going to maintain momentum toward completion and graduation.”

Data provided from the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges using information from IPEDS. The data show the percentage of first-time, full-time students at community or technical colleges who completed a degree or transferred out within three years.

Guided pathways at Peninsula College include programs in business and management, health care and skilled trades. Robins said the aim is to get students to focus on a pathway early on so that they can make best use of their time and money.

“So many of our students are on financial aid and they’re burning financial aid as they’re trying to decide what it is they want to do,” Robins said.

Other community and technical colleges have adopted guided pathways, including Everett Community College and South Seattle College. State lawmakers voted this past legislative session to allocate more funding so additional colleges can implement the model.