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Innovation and Incubator Grants from the University System of Georgia

Meta-Pathways providing Momentum for Student Success

Georgia State University


Grant Type: 
Project Lead: 
Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown
Associate Vice President, Student Success
Other team members: 

Carol Cohen
Director, University Advisement Center

Eric Cuevas
Director, First Year Programs and Student Success

Crystal Mitchell
Associate Director, University Advisement Center Perimeter College

Cary Claiborne
Assistant Director, University Advisement Center Decatur Campus

Josh Walker
Assistant Director, First Year Programs

Project Description: 

Identified Challenge:

Incoming students at Georgia State University are embarking on a new journey in an unfamiliar environment. Despite their past academic success, students are often unprepared to deal with the rigors and exigencies of college life, particularly during their first semester.  Freshmen can feel overwhelmed by the size and scope of the college campus and by the number of choices and decisions that they have to make. These problems can be exacerbated for commuter students who can find it difficult to build friendships and identify support systems. Low income and first generation students may find these challenges constitute a significant obstacle to academic success. All the students at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College are commuters, 60% are low income, nearly half are first generation. Identifying ways to help students overcome these obstacles is essential to increasing student success.

Through the implementation of meta-pathways and freshman learning communities at Perimeter College we will use this momentum year initiative to simplify the enrollment process for students, ensure that they are on an appropriate academic path, and connect them with a cohort of others who can provide for support.

Potential Impact:

Students on the Atlanta campus of Georgia State University have experienced success with the use of meta-majors and learning communities. Students earn higher GPAs, keep the HOPE scholarship at a higher rate, are retained at a higher rate and graduate in less time. Moreover, since the implementation of meta-majors in 2015, the number of major changes has declined by more than 30 percent.  Meta-Pathways will provide similar momentum for student success for those attending the 2-year campuses of Georgia State University’s Perimeter College. 

Requiring all associate level students to choose a meta-pathway will put students on a track to degree completion and allow them to make a more informed choice about the specific pathway that they will pursue. At the same time it will help ensure the applicability of early course credits to their final pathway selection and align this pathway with a potential four- year degree.  Meta-pathways with freshmen learning communities will also serve to increase the percentage of student’s completing their core math and English courses in their first year, as well as increase the number of students progressing toward 30 credit hour completion in their first year. Additionally, Georgia State University will use the FLC-meta-pathway model to improve math alignment for degree programs.  One of the benefits of the FLC-meta major format is that students only take college algebra and calculus if they need it. FLC communities will ensure that students are on a math track appropriate to their pathway. Students that do not need calculus will be placed in a community with Quantitative Reasoning.

Upon registration, all students will be required to enroll in one of seven meta-pathways: STEM, Arts & Humanities, Health, Education, or Policy & Social Science. Once students have selected their meta-pathway, they will be given a choice of several block schedules, which are prepopulated course timetables including courses relevant to their first year of study. On the basis of their timetable selection, students will be assigned to Freshman Learning Communities consisting of 25 students who are in the same meta-major and take classes according to the same block schedules 3 courses in addition to PCO 1020, a 1 credit hour course providing students with essential information and survival skills to help them navigate the logistical, academic, and social demands of the University. Academic department deliver programming to students—alumni panels, departmental open houses—that help students to understand the practical differences between pathways within each meta-pathway area.

Potential Lessons Learned:

With the implementation of the “Meta Pathways Providing Momentum for Student Success” proposal, Georgia State University expects to see gains in student academic performance, increases in student retention rates, increases in student academic progression, and decreases in the number of students who change pathways and often earn excess credit hours as a result. With a large numbers of low-­‐income students who have strictly limited resources, mistakes in choosing pathways can equate to college attrition.  Meta-­‐pathways, block scheduling, and freshman learning communities have all been shown to significantly improve opportunities for student success.  Structuring and supporting student choices in these ways should significantly increase educational outcomes—especially for first generation, low-income and commuter students.