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Guided Pathways Overview

What is Guided Pathways?

Guided Pathways is a national, research driven, whole-college redesign model designed to help all students explore, choose, plan and complete programs aligned with their career and education goals efficiently and affordably. Colleges implement Guided Pathways reforms to improve student completion rates, close achievement gaps and increase enrollments in an increasingly competitive environment.

Four Pillars of the Guided Pathways Model

  1. Clarify the Path - Create clear curricular pathways to employment and further education.
  2. Enter the Path - Help students choose and enter their pathway.
  3. Stay on the Path - Help students stay on their path.
  4. Ensure Learning - Ensure that learning is happening with intentional outcomes.

Iowa Community Colleges have embedded initiatives that fall within all four pillars into their strategic plans.

More information on Guided Pathways

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Iowa Guided Pathways Newsletter

Sign up to get the Iowa Guided Pathways Newsletter, a monthly newsletter for community colleges, four-year college partners and other interested persons.

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Iowa Statewide Guided Pathways Initiative Timeline

2018: The Iowa Department of Education and Iowa community colleges awarded a Guided Pathways planning grant by Ascendium Education Group.

2019: The Department and Iowa community colleges awarded a 2-year Guided Pathways implementation grant by Ascendium Education Group.

2021 - present: Iowa community colleges work individually to implement the four pillars of Guided Pathways through initiatives embedded in their strategic plan, with technical assistance and professional development provided by the Department.

2022: First Iowa Guided Pathways Data Convening held in May.

2023: Pathway Pillars in Practice webinar series began and the second Iowa Guided Pathways Data Convening held in May.

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Annual Data Convening

An annual event held in May brings community college teams together to focus on utilizing data to inform strategic initiatives to improve student outcomes. The first two years provided new data tools, strategies and action plans to implement.

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Pathway Pillars in Practice

A series of webinars creating communities of practice around topics related to one of the pillars of Guided Pathways. Sessions held over the lunch hour so community college staff and faculty can take part and engage in discussion on a topic presented by the Department and one of the community colleges.

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Join Our Community

The Department hosts a Guided Pathways Google Site for community college administrators, faculty and staff. The site includes Pathway Pillars webinar recordings and resources. Interested in joining our community, contact Kelly Friesleben at

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