The Institute of Higher Education (IHE) has been awarded a $355,997 grant to lead a team of researchers and institutional stakeholders in a collaborative project designed to facilitate student success and institutional transformation through the use of the guided pathways framework. Dr. Justin Ortagus, director of IHE and assistant professor of higher education administration & policy, will serve as the principal investigator of the project.

A guided pathways approach provides students with clear, structured course options that serve as roadmaps and align with students’ educational and professional goals. “The guided pathways framework is typically discussed in the context of community colleges, but students at access-oriented four-year institutions may face similar challenges and benefit from a highly structured academic plan,” Ortagus said.

The IHE-led project will focus specifically on incorporating access-oriented four-year institutional perspectives in conversations surrounding how to transform institutional practices and improve student outcomes through the use of guided pathways as an evidence-based framework.

The research team will initially conduct quantitative data analyses leveraging national data sources to identify institutional leaders in retention rates, completion rates and labor market outcomes among underrepresented and disadvantaged students. The next phase of the project will involve hosting a series of interviews with access-oriented four-year institutions, research centers and additional organizations with expertise related to the use of guided pathways at four-year institutions. The last phase of the project will include the creation of a final report in which the research team will outline its methodology, findings and evidence-based recommendations for future interventions that can increase the scale of the implementation of guided pathways for student success by including access-oriented four-year institutional perspectives.

The collaborative project is titled “Guided Pathways for Student Success at Access-Oriented Four-Year Institutions” and includes collaborators from West Virginia University, Howard University, Appalachian State University and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is expected to be completed during the summer of 2019.

“We’re partnering with both researchers and practitioners at participating organizations to make sure we’re asking the right questions to allow our research to inform future practice and ultimately optimize the likelihood of student success at these access-oriented four-year institutions,” Ortagus said.

Justin Ortagus