Student-Centric Practices

Colleges and universities that put students at the center of institutional practices, decision-making, and resource allocation have greater success in helping students reach their academic goals, whether that is earning a credential, transferring to a four-year institution, or achieving a bachelor’s degree.

We supported institutions that designs and implements practices that prioritize equity, student needs, and a seamless journey from high school into postsecondary and through to B.A. completion.

Our work in this area focused on:

Guided Pathways

Redesigning course and program experiences so that students can make timely progress along the path to earning a degree.

In California, most high school graduates enroll at the California Community Colleges, the largest higher education system in the country, serving nearly 2 million students. Community colleges have long been a vital gateway to a bachelor’s degree, particularly for learners and families from communities of color and those who face outsized financial barriers.Guided Pathways is a framework for community colleges to design and implement practices that provide appropriate structure and support for students to improve their experiences and shorten their time to degree.

Our view is that Guided Pathways can be a powerful, equity-driven approach to redesigning systemic supports to ensure that students can accomplish their academic goals. Four principles guide the work so that students:

  • Understand the Educational Path. Schools create clear and efficient course pathways linked to majors and careers and effectively communicate them to students.
  • Enter the Path. Schools design intake processes that ask students about their interests and career goals and help them choose a program of study.
  • Stay on the Path. Schools monitor students’ progress and proactively support them along their path, integrating academic advising with non-academic services such as financial aid
  • Learn and Succeed. Schools create clear outcomes and measures for programs of study and establish regular procedures to assess student achievement.

Dual Enrollment

Improving the coordination between education institutions so that program pathways are efficient — reducing their time and cost to a degree — and students feel encouraged and supported to advance on their educational path from high school to community college to university.

We supported partners focused on designing dual enrollment programs to ensure that the courses students take are credit-bearing, transferrable, and relevant to their postsecondary ambitions, and to enable those who have historically not had access — including Black, Latinx, Indigenous, other students of color, and learners who face outsized barriers to success in higher education—to be better served and supported.

When rooted in principles of equity and leveraged for completion, dual enrollment can and should be a powerful tool to expand equitable access, deepen sense of belonging, reduce debt, and accelerate bachelor’s degree attainment specifically for first-generation and low-income students of color.

Holistic Student Supports

Encouraging integrated, holistic student support systems—including counseling and financial aid—that better understand and meet student needs.

Research shows that students’ academic success is entwined with their well-being. However, institutions of higher education were not designed to support students with diverse needs at scale. Most public colleges and universities have historically taken a passive approach to student support – due to constrained capacity and entrenched cultural beliefs – creating an unsupportive environment and unnavigable system that exacerbates inequities.

At College Futures Foundation, we see students as whole human beings and whole learners with multi-dimensional, intersecting identities requiring integrated supports or what we call holistic student supports (HSS). HSS is about understanding and strengthening students’ identity, agency, and competencies, particularly related to their goals of financial security and socioeconomic mobility.

Thus, the Foundation’s investments in holistic student supports are exploring efforts to:

  • Integrate existing institutional support structures including financial supports, career connections, and culturally relevant approaches.  
  • Facilitate institutional partnerships with community-based organizations to help build colleges’ capacity for knowing and supporting students in holistic, meaningful ways.