Guided Pathways


Guided Pathways Glossary

Guided Pathways Glossary

The glossary comes from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC).

The ASCCC Guided Pathway Glossary is a “living” and dynamic document that is intended to undergo regular revision and updates. Readers that have suggestions, questions, or additions to this document are encouraged to forward them to info (at) asccc [dot] org

AACC National Guided Pathways Project

In 2015 the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) launched a multi-year, national project focused on helping community colleges build capacity to design and implement structured academic and career pathways. Nationally, thirty colleges, including three California community colleges, were selected for the first cohort and were provided guidance and coaching through institutes and structured assignments. Colleges agreed to pay for the opportunity to participate. In 2017 “Pathways 2.0” was launched. More details are available at

Abbreviated Student Education Plan (aSEP)

An aSEP is a plan of coursework for a student’s first semester.  Prior to colleges implementing guided pathways frameworks, the Student Education Plan (SEP) was developed as part of Student Support and Success Program (SSSP).  Now, an aSEP is seen as a precursor to the Comprehensive SEP, which covers the entire schedule of coursework a student needs to complete a stated educational goal (degree, certificate and/or transfer).  Under guided pathways frameworks, these are based on program maps developed by instructional departments and then individualized by the student in consultation with a counselor. Best practices for creating aSEPs include planning to complete basic skills courses (math, reading, and English) as quickly as possible and a student development experience or class.

Academic Advisors

An “academic advisor” provides educational guidance to a student to support educational planning, career planning, and student support services. The meaning of this term varies among colleges. Some colleges use it to refer to faculty providing discipline and/or career advice, whereas some colleges have hired classified staff to triage or provide limited direction to students in order to direct them to the appropriate counselor or counseling services. For further information, see The Role of Counseling Faculty and Delivery of Counseling Services in the California Community Colleges, available at:

Academic Quality

Academic Quality is a term to describe how well the learning opportunities, instruction, support, services, environment, resource utilization, and operations of a college result in student learning and student achievement of educational goals. Accreditation standards, the scholarship standards and academic rigor adopted by the faculty, and a college’s local values and priorities, collectively, are factors in determining academic quality in the context of institutional mission.

Administrative Procedures

Administrative procedures implement Board policy, laws, and regulations. They address how the general goals of the District are achieved and define operations of the District. They include details of policy implementation, responsibility, accountability, and standards of practice. Although procedures may be developed by the chancellor/ superintendent/president, managers, faculty members, staff members, and students, it is the administrators/managers who are held responsible for upholding the specific information delineated in the procedures. Procedures do not generally require governing board action though this is a local decision.

ASCCC Guided Pathways Liaison (GPL)

ASCCC Guided Pathways (GP) Liaisons are faculty from each of the 114 California Community Colleges (CCCs) identified by local senates to act as the key local contact regarding GP-related training, needs, resources, and communications from the faculty perspective. Guided Pathways liaisons are in contact with the ASCCC and regularly or as requested report to and update the local academic senate on statewide matters related to guided pathways.  Guided Pathways liaisons also communicate with the local senate and campus faculty regarding guided pathways relevant to the local college and/or district.

ASSIST: Articulation System Stimulating Interinstitutional Student Transfer (ASSIST)

ASSIST is an online student-transfer information system that shows how course credits earned at one public California college or university can be applied when transferred to another. ASSIST is the official repository of articulation for California’s public colleges and universities and provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about student transfer in California. The website provides information concerning transfer and majors available in California Public Higher Education

Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT, AA-T Associate of Arts and AS-T Associate of Science)

In 2010, legislation mandated the development of CCC degrees that guaranteed transfer to the California State University system. As a consequence, a system for the CCC development and the CSU acceptance of ADTs (AA-Ts and AS-Ts) was developed. These degrees are intended to simplify transfer to the CSU, ensure courses taken at the CCC are honored at the CSU, and minimize unit accumulation. (

Basic Skills Courses

Courses in reading, writing, computation, and English as a Second Language which are designated by the community college district as non-degree applicable credit courses pursuant to subdivision (b) of section 55002 and are not transferable.

Noncredit basic skills courses are those courses in reading, writing, computation, and English as a Second Language which are designated by the community college district as noncredit courses pursuant to subdivision (c) of section 55002.

Board Policy

A board policy is the voice of the Governing Board and defines the general goals and acceptable practices for the operation of the district that adhere to federal and state laws and regulations. Each of the 72 community college districts has a locally-elected board of trustees which set policies that are the basis for procedures to carry out the work of the institutions. The governing board, through policy, delegates authority to and through the chancellor/superintendent/president to implement actions within the district. The chancellor/superintendent/president and district employees are responsible to reasonably interpret board policy as well as other relevant laws and regulations that govern the district.

California Guided Pathways Demonstration Project

The California Guided Pathways Demonstration Project is a cohort of 20 California community colleges chosen through an application process in 2017 to implement an integrated, institution-wide approach to student success by creating structured educational experiences that support each student from point of entry to attainment of high-quality postsecondary credentials and careers. Colleges pay for the opportunity to participate and receive guidance and coaching through institutes and structured assignments. *Also referred to as the California Guided Pathways Project.

CalPASS Plus

Cal-PASS Plus, created through leadership and funding by California Community College Chancellor’s Office, is an accessible, actionable and collaborative pre-K through 16 repository of student data. Cal-PASS Plus’ mission is to provide actionable data to help improve student success along the education-to-workforce pipeline. The intent of the project is to inform better instruction, help close achievement gaps, identify scalable best practices, and improve transitions. Cal-PASS Plus offers longitudinal data charts, analysis of pre-K through 16 transitions and workplace outcomes, information and artifacts on success factors, and comparisons among like universities, colleges, K-12 school systems and schools. In addition, the Cal PASS Plus Guided Pathways tab provides information on first-year momentum points including retention, gateway course completion, and unit accumulation, as well as historical trends, disaggregated figures, and comparison data to contextualize results that include dual enrolled and summer students.

California Community Colleges Guided Pathways Program

California Community Colleges Guided Pathways Program is a multi-year state program funded by the legislature and implemented by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. The program is intended to provide all California Community Colleges with the opportunity to implement Guided Pathways for the purpose of significantly improving student outcomes. This program, sometimes referred to as the CAGAP California Guided Pathways Award Program, required participating colleges to complete a self-assessment and a workplan approved by the college’s academic senate to receive funding. This funding is now tied to implementation of AB705 accountability.  


Certificates are academic awards granted at the completion of designated certificate programs and may lead to additional certificates or a degree. They represent a shorter path of courses based upon specific skills and outcomes.   


A cohort is a group of students with at least one statistical factor in common for data collection, analysis, and big-picture decision-making about pathways development.  Examples of cohorts include cohorts defined in the Student Success Scorecard, all the students grouped in a meta-major, or students within a particular program (i.e. the entering class of a nursing program or Puente).

College ready/transfer ready/college prepared

College ready/transfer ready/college prepared refer to a student who has the skills or prerequisites to be successful in a college-level or transfer-level course.

Common Core

The Common Core is a set of academic standards in K-12 mathematics and English Language Arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they attend school. Testing and coursework in common core states focus on critical thinking rather than memorization and testing. The standards were adopted and implemented in 43 states.

Completion Community

A completion community is a collaborative team of faculty, staff, and administrators from all areas of a district responsible for oversight and engagement with a particular group of students during a period of time.  Each team member is called a “Completion Coach” and the individual students in the group have at least one statistical factor – such as meta-major of study – in common.  The concept of a completion community was created by Bakersfield College as part of their implementation of Guided Pathways and is merely an example of an implementation strategy within the framework; other colleges will define and create approaches that are relevant to their college and community. 

Comprehensive Student Educational Plan (cSEP)

A cSEP is a plan of coursework which covers students’ coursework to completion of their educational goal (degree, certificate and/or transfer). Guided pathways framework best practices for a cSEP include a completion of basic skills (math, reading and English) as quickly as possible and a student development or counseling class. Transfer to CSU must include completion of the Golden Four (transfer-level English and Math, oral communication, and critical thinking).  Under a guided pathways framework, cSEPs are based on program maps developed by instructional departments and then individualized by the student and the counselor.

Course Identification Number (C-ID)

C-ID, the Course Identification Numbering System, is a faculty-driven system developed to assign identifying designations (C-ID numbers) to particular transfer courses. C-ID address the need for system-wide “common course numbers” by providing a mechanism to identify comparable courses. CCCs submit course outlines of record to C-ID for review by discipline faculty and receipt of a C-ID designation.  As submission of a course to C-ID by a CCC indicates acceptance of courses bearing that C-ID number, C-ID is a means of establishing intra-segmental (with the CCC) articulation. More information is available at

Course Success

Course success refers to coursework students complete with a grade of A, B, C, or P.


A degree is defined in Title 5, section 55000(g), as "an organized sequence of courses leading to a defined objective” which may be traditional A.A. or A.S. local degrees or transfer degrees A.A.-T/A.S.-T.  

Design Teams

Design Teams, a term used by Skyline College, refers to a group of faculty, staff, administrators, and students whose mission is to collaboratively guide the college’s comprehensive redesign and keep close integration with other college initiatives to support a guided pathways framework.

Directed Self-Placement (DSP)

Directed Self-Placement (DSP) is a term used by some institutions, including the California State University System, for guidance given to students that allows them to select appropriate English and Math courses for self-placement. However, because of the confusion with the California Community Colleges' Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) Program, the preferred term, within the California community colleges, is Guided Self Placement (GSP). Please see Guided Self-Placement below for a more detailed description.

Early Alert

Early alert is a strategy for communicating with students when barriers or success issues become apparent. Early alerts sometimes involve the use of technology so that instructors, counselors, and staff can tailor an alert (communication) or customized message regarding the needs and resources available. Several software programs provide this tool (e.g. SARS, Starfish, and Banner).

Early Assessment Program (EAP)

The California State University’s Early Assessment Program provides opportunities for students to measure their readiness for college-level English and mathematics in their junior year of high school and an opportunity to improve their skills during their senior year. EAP test results of “college ready” have been used by some colleges as a multiple measure to place students in transfer-level English. More information is available at

Embedded Counseling

Embedded counseling refers to the practice of assigning counselors as specialists within a specific discipline, program, or meta-major. These counselors are sometimes physically located within proximity of those areas rather than in general counseling.

Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC)

The Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) is a full-year college preparatory English course for high school juniors or seniors developed by a task force of high school and California State University faculty. The ERWC is intended to align with the California English-Language Arts Content Standards, to address critical reading and writing problems identified by the CSU English Placement Test Committee, and to prepare students to meet the expectations of college and university faculty. Completion of this course with a C or better has been used as a multiple measure to place students in transfer-level English.

First Time in College (FTIC)

A “first-time-in-college” student is one who has never been to college before. The majority are just out of high school and research indicates that these students are more likely to complete a program of study. Key Progress Indicators (KPIs), as developed by AACC for its Pathways Project, focus on these students.

Gatekeeper Course

A Gatekeeper course is the first or lowest-level college-level course a student must take and successfully complete to progress along his or her academic pathway; these courses may also be called gateway courses.

General Education Student Learning Outcomes (GE SLOs or GELOs)

General Education Student Learning Outcomes are the knowledge, skills, and abilities a student is expected to be able to demonstrate following a program of courses designed to provide the student with a common core of knowledge consistent with a liberally educated or literate citizen. Some colleges refer to these as core competencies, while others consider the collected general education requirements to be a program.

Golden Four

In the California State University (CSU) System the "Golden Four" courses refer to requirements in oral communication, written communication, critical thinking, and mathematics/quantitative reasoning that all students must complete prior to transfer and may impact transfer priority. While each CSU may have specific, unique requirements, program maps should all consider the CSU Golden Four requirements. These requirements are found at https: //

GP vs gp

Upper case “GP” often represents the national guided pathways framework defined primarily by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) and the “Redesigning America’s Community Colleges” framework. The use of a lower case “gp” usually refers to a college’s unique, adapted design and implementation of guided pathways.

Guided Pathways Collaborative Teams

A Guided Pathways Collaborative Team, occasionally referred to as a Cross-Functional Team, is a group working together to undertake tasks with representatives who provide important skills and perspectives to support the goals of the group. Examples of cross-functional teams include workgroups convened to design and implement specific aspects of guided pathways, such as defining meta-majors or redesigning orientation.  

Guided Pathways Framework

A college’s guided pathways framework is an institution-wide approach to student success based on intentionally designed, clear, coherent, and structured educational experiences, informed by available evidence, which are intended to guide each student effectively and efficiently from his/her point of entry through to attainment of high-quality postsecondary credentials and degrees and into careers with value in the labor market and as citizens in society.  Guided pathways is an umbrella term used to describe highly-structured student experiences that guide them on the pathway to completion.

Guided Self-Placement (GSP)

Guided Self-Placement (GSP) is a locally developed tool or process that allows students, in consultation with counselors, to determine appropriate coursework for basic skills or entry-level classes. GSP is a response to considerable research that indicates that placement testing and other placement measures are not always sufficient predictors of success for individual students. In addition, GSP encourages students' personal metacognitive evaluation and self-determination as a part of the placement process. GSP tools provide students with basic information about multiple measures and help them, through questions, examples, and course descriptions, determine the appropriate level of placement to encourage confidence and success.


In-reach efforts inform and guide students already admitted to the college to promote timely success and completion.

Institutional Integrity

The concept of institutional integrity is characterized by consistent and ethical actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes, as defined by institutions. A college demonstrating institutional integrity provides clear, accurate, and current information to the college community and public.

Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILO):

Institutional Learning Outcomes are the knowledge, skills, and abilities a student is expected to leave an institution with, as a result of a student’s total experience. Because General Education Outcomes (GLO) represent a common core of outcomes obtained by students who are transferring or receiving degrees, some but not all, institutions equate these with ILOs. 

Institution-Set Standards (ISS)

Institution set standards are performance metrics and measures set by institutions for student achievement, both in individual programs and for institution-wide student achievement. Colleges are required to establish ISSs in order to comply with federal regulations and accreditation standards. Both the definition and the level of expected performance are appropriate for assessing achievement of institutional mission, for determining actions of improvement, and for analyzing institutional results in the context of higher education. Institutions assess student performance against locally set standards in order to determine institutional effectiveness and academic quality and to inform planning and action for continuous improvement. 

Intrusive counseling

Intrusive counseling refers to proactive practices in counseling students; however, this term has been found to have negative connotations.  Instead, please reference proactive counseling in this document. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a set of metrics designed to measure institutional success in student progress through milestones, and are specifically used to monitor the effects of institutional initiatives. Guided Pathways KPI’s for the AACC Pathways Project specifically include only FTEIC (First Time EVER in College Students excluding dual enrolled and summer school students). More information is available at the AACC website:

The California Community Colleges CalPASS Plus Key Performance Indicators

The Cal PASS Plus Guided Pathways tab provides information on first-year momentum points including retention, gateway course completion, and unit accumulation, as well as historical trends, disaggregated figures, and comparison data to contextualize results that include dual enrolled and summer students.


A meta-major is a collection of academic programs that lead to related occupations or have similar learning objectives, outcomes, content and/or resources.  Programs within a meta-major will share some requirements which allow for early exploration as students may enroll in this broad field of interest without collecting excess units.  Many colleges have chosen to use local terms instead of meta-majors, such as Areas of Interest, Focus Areas, Career and Learning Pathways. A meta-major is not a major: It is simply an organizing tool. Students will still need to declare a specific major to qualify for financial aid. 

At CRC, the meta-majors will be known Career & Academic Communities. 

Milestones/Mile Posts

Milestones or Mile Posts represent measurable educational achievements, such as completing a college-level math course or the number of average units to complete a degree.  Milestones often provide places where students may receive positive acknowledgment of their accomplishments or “nudges” to help them back on their stated educational pathway. 

Multiple Measures Assessment Project (MMAP)

The Multiple Measures Assessment Project is an effort led by Cal-PASS Plus and the RP Group, with support from the CCCCO, to build a data warehouse, analytic tools, and a communications strategy to support California community colleges in implementing a process for placing students into college-level or developmental coursework based on multiple measures of assessment.


Nudges are faculty and student services-initiated actions that support and guide student decision-making by providing information while preserving freedom of choice.


Outreach refers to efforts made by a college to contact and prepare prospective students.

Pathway/Program Map/Road Map

A pathway (also referred to as a program map or road map) is a descriptive and easy-to-use plan detailing the route a student takes to connect with, enter, progress through, and complete his/her program of study as well as the skills he/she needs to enter the labor market or transition to a baccalaureate program. Pathways include a semester-to-semester sequence of courses required to complete a credential efficiently. Pathways may include specific milestones for licensure or stackable credentials and general education recommendations.  Across the state, colleges are taking differing approaches for the inclusion of GE courses in the program maps, ranging from specifically identifying each GE course to allowing “Any course in Area x.” 

Proactive counseling

Proactive counseling refers to proactive practices where students at-risk for academic failure or experiencing difficulty during the transition to the college are messaged or contacted regarding areas of concern. Proactive counseling may include extensive, data-driven monitoring of student activity at key milestones or simple nudges to students regarding impending activities that would benefit their success.


A program is a set of courses and related activities that lead to an attainment of educational objectives such as a certificate or an associate’s degree, and is often referred to as a major or a program of study. In Title 5 §55000(g), a “program” is defined as a cohesive set of courses that result in a certificate or degree. However, in a program review process, colleges often define programs to include specific disciplines. The term “program” may be used to refer to student service programs and administrative units, as well.

Program Learning Outcome (PLO)

PLOs are those student learning outcomes specific to a program of study that indicate the skills and abilities students should be able to demonstrate upon completion of all program requirements. PLOs are often measured using the aggregated data collected by measuring critical course student learning outcomes of required coursework within the program of study. 


The term onboarding may refer to many aspects of guided pathways design depending on the context. Onboarding within the context of student services can refer to processes and services intended to support a student’s enrollment in the college and/or the information provided to help students determine a meta-major or general career path. Within an academic context, onboarding may refer to the processes used to determine college-readiness, and support curriculum and learning assistance services for students in order that they enter a program or pathways at the level where they will be most successful. Onboarding might include offering corequisite support courses that align math and other foundational skills with a student’s program and contextualized credit or noncredit curriculum. 

Reassigned Time

Reassigned time (also known as release time) is defined in local contracts but references the time or teaching load a faculty is reassigned, in order to perform duties outside of their regular job assignment.

Student Educational Plan (SEP)

The Student Educational Plan is a term-by-term individualized plan of courses a student should take based on his/her placement levels, full-time/part-time status, summer term plans, and pathway selection.  The SEP should guide students through registration. SEPs come in two forms, the aSEP or abbreviated educational plan, which typically represents the first semester or year of coursework, and the cSEP or comprehensive educational plan which maps a pathway to the degree. 

Student Achievement

Student achievement can be defined as attainment of defined points of completion, including successful course completion, certificates and degrees, licensure examination passage, post-program employment, and other similar elements that can be measured.

Student Learning

Student learning refers to the competencies (skill and knowledge) gained and demonstrated by students who are at the institution. Student learning competencies are expressed for segments of study or activity through measurable student learning outcomes (SLOs) at the institutional, program, degree, and course levels. [NOTE: Student achievement and student learning are viewed as distinct measures of institutional quality by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).]

Vision for Student Success CCCCO

The California Community Colleges Vision for Success is a document developed in 2017 by the Chancellor’s Office and approved by the Board of Governors. This document lays out several goals for the system for the next decade.

A summary of the goals of the Vision is included below. By 2022 the CCC system will

  • Increase by at least 20 percent the number of CCC students annually who acquire associates degrees, credentials, certificates, or specific skill sets that prepare them for an in-demand job.
  • Increase by 35 percent the number of CCC students transferring annually to a UC or CSU.
  • Decrease the average number of units accumulated by CCC students earning associate’s degrees, from approximately 87 total units (the most recent system-wide average) to 79 total units—the average among the quintile of colleges showing the strongest performance on this measure.
  • Increase the percent of exiting CTE students who report being employed in their field of study, from the most recent statewide average of 60 percent to an improved rate of 69 percent—the average among the quintile of colleges showing the strongest performance on this measure.
  • Reduce equity gaps across all of the above measures through faster improvements among traditionally underrepresented student groups, with the goal of cutting achievement gaps by 40 percent within 5 years and fully closing those achievement gaps within 10 years.
  • Reduce regional achievement gaps across all of the above measures through faster improvements among colleges located in regions with the lowest educational attainment of adults, with the ultimate goal of fully closing regional achievement gaps within 10 years.


The full document can be viewed here: