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Guided Pathways to Success: Empower Students Through to Completion and Beyond

Supporting student success both during and after college
University Business, June 2017

Which major is best for me? How do I plan my courses? How do I succeed in my courses? What is my career strategy after college? These are all questions students tend to have throughout their educational journey.

Demonstrating on-time completion and positive student outcomes is a major challenge facing today’s colleges and universities. Students and families are expecting institutions to provide the tools and support services to ensure students secure the necessary skills and competencies to prepare them for a successful life.

This web seminar profiled how Brigham Young University–Idaho has successfully rolled out a guided pathways system to empower its 44,800 students throughout their college journey. With their desired career as the goal, students stay on track for success in the areas of college readiness, career strategy, tutoring, advising, academic planning, course selection, job discovery and internships, while their academic advisors can spend face-to-face time more thoughtfully. 

Eileen Smith
Vice President, Marketing

Amy LaBaugh
Vice President, Student Life
Brigham Young University–Idaho

Eileen Smith: You see the same exact challenges every morning when you go to your email. Forty percent of the students who begin college never finish. That’s a rather sobering statistic, unfortunately. Over 60 percent of students who go to college are not prepared, and they need significant remediation.

Four percent of students complete associate degrees at a two-year school in two years. That’s the stat that most keeps me awake at night. This is a very, very critical number. I was recently at the ACE Conference in Washington, D.C., where I heard that in order to fuel the U.S. economy, by 2025 we’ll need an additional 20 million skilled and educated workers, and most of these folks attend community colleges.

Of the students who finish college, four of 10 get a job that didn’t actually require their college degree. That’s disheartening, especially with the financial aid debt that I’m sure they walked out of their institution with. We’re seeing a lot of disconnect between the skills that a college graduate or certificate holder has, and the skills that employers are looking for. Students need to think about what major is right for them, how to plan courses, how to do well in those courses, and what their career strategy is.

Amy LaBaugh: Brigham Young University-Idaho embarked on this journey to meet our students where they are, and to create a software solution that would be with them throughout the entire student lifecycle. We found lots of different software solutions. Some were custom, some were third-party, off-the-shelf solutions. But all of them worked in their own silo. It wasn’t a connected experience for our students.

We knew, given the type of university that we are and the students that we want to attract and develop, that we needed to be seamless in our approach to software. We set out to create software that would be comprehensive and holistic when you look at the student experience. We looked for something that would greet the students as new admits, support them as they went through the university, and then would celebrate their successful completion and job offer.

The students have questions. They need answers. Jenzabar Guided Pathways to Success is a software suite that is data-driven and empowers students to navigate through their educational experience. On their iPads, their tablets, their phones, their laptops, they can pull up what they need. Whether they’re studying with us here in Rexburg, or they’re an online student in Cincinnati, all students have 24/7 access to the resources that the university has provided them, from anywhere in the world. We found as we worked to make our education more effective and meaningful for our online students, it got even better for our campus students too—because whether you’re in a dorm or you’re in off-campus housing, if you can do it online, it doesn’t matter if you’re on night or day.

Another benefit that we’ve seen is an increase in approved grad plans. One of the things that we know about throughput, and retention, and persistence, is that students who have a plan are more likely to succeed than those who aren’t sure what their career goals are, or who are undecided about their academic major. And because this is a holistic service, students are also engaging with our tutoring and career exploration services.

We’ve also seen that students and advisors are both empowered. Before we had Jenzabar GPS, advisors were very caught up in the day-to-day needs of students, with those immediate things they needed: I need to add a class. I need to drop a class. I’m wondering what classes I should register for next semester. Now that all of those front-level administrative services can be handled by the student through the tool, advisors are being more innovative with how they’re using their time.

Working with Jenzabar GPS has allowed us for the first time to offer student-focused software solutions. It’s allowed us to greet students where they are, and to make sure that they are truly finding success during their time at BYU-Idaho.

Eileen Smith: One of the differentiators with Jenzabar Guided Pathways to Success is that it is a stem-to-stern solution, from high school through career selection. That’s what we think makes it special, and unique.

A student in high school goes into the solution and is asked a series of questions. What do you like to do? What are you good at? Do you like working with people? Do you not like working with people? At the end they are given a list of potential careers that would fit their unique persona, along with the majors that complement those careers.

Let’s say that I went through the survey, and I put down that I like working with people, I enjoy science, I think I’d be good ministering to folks, and maybe blood does not bother me. So the system might come back and say, “You would be a good physician’s assistant.” Then I would see that a certain institution has a major specifically designed to get me to the physician’s assistant career. I would go through the planner and figure out my path. Then I would be placed on a road map with courses. If I begin to fall off the path, the system will tell me, “You might want to go to the tutoring area.”

In summary, there are three things I’d like to leave you with. First and foremost, this is a student-focused solution. Second, advisors are much more targeted with their time. Third, this is a fully integrative set of solutions, beginning in high school, going through strategy, planning, road map, advising, all the way through the career. That’s what makes it different.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit

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