Guided Pathways

Redesigning the Student Experience

ACC began restructuring its programs and services in 2016 to support “guided pathways” — a strategy embraced by community colleges nationwide to provide students a clear roadmap to on-time completion and personalized guidance to help them stay on track. Guided Pathways is a model that has led to ACC redesigning students’ educational experiences and reevaluating the college’s operations.

The Guided Pathways model comprises 4 main principals:

  • Create clear curricular pathways to employment and further education
  • Help students choose and enter their pathway
  • Help students stay on their path
  • Ensure that learning is happening with intentional outcomes

The college launched its Guided Pathways by providing students with clear program maps to graduation and deeper support services including Area of Study orientations, first-year student programs, and enhanced advising and counseling opportunities with one-on-one interactions.

The college’s goals to improve student success outcomes and remove barriers to success is ongoing. Below are some highlights of some of the activities and events related to the Guided Pathways activities ACC has adopted, as well as some resources for additional information.

The Austin Community College District was recognized with an excellence award at the Fall 2023 Texas Pathways Conference for achievements in work completed for Pillar 1 – Connection: Clarify Pathways to End Goals.  


In the Fall of 2023, ACC is rolling out its fourth bachelor’s degree: Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity. This new degree is designed to help working professionals in cybersecurity prepare for more advanced career roles. The college is also launching an 8-week pathway for the Associate of Science in Business Administration degree (BUA). Students earn the same amount of credit hours while taking fewer classes at one time. In addition to the new associate degree pathway, ACC has launched a full slate of 8-week course options in a variety of programs and degree tracks. In Spring of 2023, the college offered a new online option for its RN-to-BSN bachelor’s degree program. This online program provides registered nurses (RNs) an affordable route to earn their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN).


In 2022, ACC welcomed the first cohort in its newest bachelor’s degree program: The Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) in Manufacturing Engineering Technology. This became ACC’s third bachelor’s degree and is designed to move working professionals in manufacturing into more advanced career roles and help fill growing workforce gaps in the industry.


In Fall of 2021, the college was a national finalist for the 2021 Examples of Excelencia. The college’s Guided Pathways Advising Through Coaching program was one of 21 finalists and the only community college program recognized in Texas. The proactive student coaching initiative being recognized launched in 2018 as a part of ACC’s Guided Pathways program.


In Spring 2020, the college added its second bachelor degree program: Bachelor in Applied Science in Software Development. This program is designed for IT professionals who want to advance their careers. The college worked closely with its industry partners to identify three specializations in Software Development, Cybersecurity, or Data Science.

In 2020, ACC also saw a decline in the number of students enrolled in Developmental Math thanks to a restructuring of its math curriculum that started in 2017. The revamping of the curriculum was documented in a five-part documentary film series about colleges in the process of implementing Guided Pathways called Voices of Pathways: A Series About Community Colleges and Transformational Change


2020 was the first year to fully realize the college’s Guided Pathways initiatives. Data showed strong and promising growth across all college programs. ACC students earned 43 percent more associate degrees and 49 percent more certificates over the last five years. The 2020 Student Success Report is available here.

ACC first started to see the results from its Guided Pathways initiatives in the 2019 Student Success Report. Additionally, results from a 2019 Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE) and the Community College of Student Engagement (CCSSE) showed that recent college-wide efforts to better support student success through Guided Pathways were improving student engagement and outcomes. The college’s Guided Pathways Advising Through Coaching program was recognized as a national finalist for the prestigious Examples of Excelencia award.


Since implementing Guided Pathways, student success rates at ACC — especially among historically underserved populations — have increased significantly. In 2019, the college awarded 9,802 degrees and certificates — an increase of more than 1,000 over 2018 and a nearly 50-percent increase over five years. An analysis conducted by ACC of the multi-year Guided Pathways Advising through Coaching initiative found a 15.5 percentage point increase in overall retention from one term to the next. Under this new advising model, the college had moved away from traditional, passive academic advising toward a more developmental coaching approach.

ACC expanded co-requisite math, providing “just in time” remediation to students taking developmental and an appropriate college level math concurrently. The college did the same for integrated reading and writing students. ACC entered additional co-enrollment programs with universities to give students a smoother transition to their chosen baccalaureate degrees. The college’s first baccalaureate degree was approved, helping registered nurses throughout Central Texas have a smoother, less costly path to a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing.


The college implemented Program Maps for all instructional programs to provide students a clear guide to program purposes, course sequences, and connections to transfer and employment. Student Affairs added many new advisers and clarified the role of advisors versus counselors. Representatives from the FCTL, together with the Provost, created Project ACC (Active and Collaborative Communities) to help faculty redesign courses. ACC led a consortium of community colleges in obtaining an Achieving the Dream grant to create Open Educational Resources (OER) for a complete degree to relieve students of the burdens of costly textbooks.


A Futures Institute of 24 faculty, staff, and students (chosen from 110 applicants) spent a year in study of Pathways, visited leading colleges across the nation, and reported back on how ACC might adapt the model for college. As a result, ACC took initial steps – creating 10 “meta-majors” or Areas of Study, creating AoS Information Sessions for all new students and requiring a student success course during a new student’s first semester to explore career options, learn about college resources, and gain student skills and strategies. ACC appointed an Assistant Dean for the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL). ACC also opened the ACCelerator, implementing a new approach to developmental math, utilizing adaptive software for individual learners.

Guided Pathways Resources

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways Project website offers resources that answer fundamental questions such as: What is Guided Pathways?

“The guided pathways model is based on coherent and easy-to-follow college-level programs of study that are aligned with requirements for success in employment and at the next stage of education. Programs, support services, and instructional approaches are redesigned and re-aligned to help students clarify their goals, choose and enter pathways that will achieve those goals, stay on those pathways, and master knowledge and skills that will enable them to advance in the labor market and successfully pursue further education.”

American Association of Community Colleges

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