Guided Pathways in Washington State


A system that advances racial, social, and economic justice by achieving equitable student aspiration, access, economic progress, and educational and career attainment.


The Washington Student Success Center works to create an equitable system that prepares all learners to engage in a diverse society and workforce, achieve economic mobility through educational attainment and contribute to a socially just society.

Guided Pathways is a systemic institutional approach focused on closing equity gaps by providing a transparent, structured educational experience for students as they meet their educational requirements toward their chosen education or career path. Washington state has focused on grounding and growing this work through equity.

As a legacy of the community colleges’ emphasis on access, flexibility, and choice, the classes offered by many community colleges are often an array of disconnected courses that are not organized as cohesive programs of study.  Students are provided with insufficient clarity on how to navigate a path to their desired degree, transfer, or career.  As a result, many students either become overwhelmed and drop out or waste time and money on courses that do not add up to a meaningful credential.

Guided Pathways aims to address this issue by reducing and simplifying the number of choices about course selection a student must make, informing and supporting those choices, and directing students into an intentional, comprehensive program of study within one or two terms.  The process from college entrance to program selection to degree completion is streamlined, providing students with a much clearer, more efficient path to completion. At colleges that have transitioned to a Guided Pathways model, new students pick from a handful of “meta-majors” rather than from hundreds of courses.

Redesigning Americas Community Colleges  
Whole College Guided Pathways Reform Practices