The California Community Colleges system is in its third year of implementing guided pathways, and the state has invested a significant amount of money to support the effort at both the college and state levels. Some people are wondering where the money has gone, if it has made a difference, and what happens when it runs out. These issues lead to two important questions that faculty should ask:
- How did your college spend the money it received for implementing guided pathways in the first three years?
- How will your college use its guided pathways allocation in the next two years?
If faculty do not know the answers to these questions, they should begin investigating.
During the first three years of implementing guided pathways, colleges received substantial funding. Unfortunately, some colleges may be in for quite a shock in the next two years, as years four and five are significantly different. Guided pathways funding was also used at the system level to support colleges and districts in their implementation. Some additional questions for consideration are as follows:
- How is statewide support for guided pathways being funded?
- How was the money spent to support colleges and districts? Are funding allocations meeting the legislative standards?
- What happens when the money runs out?
To date, obtaining information on where and how the money was spent as well as an analysis of the effectiveness of the spending is proving to be difficult; however, concrete information on the price tag at the state level is available, although what has been provided is collapsed into large categories rather than details.
This article will include a brief review of the initial California Community Colleges Guided Pathways Grant Program funds—also known as the California Community Colleges Award Program or Guided Pathways Award Program—provided by the legislature, the distribution formula created by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), an early review of the college expenditures, an update on the funds expended by the CCCCO for state level support, and what colleges can expect in the future.
While many people have been asking about the Guided Pathways Grant Program Budget and statewide strategy, this article is written in response to the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Resolution S19 05.02 Guided Pathways Budget Development. Specifically, the ASCCC has been directed by the delegates to do the following:
- Urge local senates to ensure collegial and transparent guided pathways budget development;
- Work with system partners to ensure collegiality and transparency in local guided pathways budget development processes;
- Make available information regarding how statewide resources have been invested in the design and implementation of guided pathways.
The 2017-18 California State Budget provided $150 million in one-time funding— allocated over five years—to California community colleges that committed to implementing a guided pathways framework. Initially, participation in the program was voluntary; however, all 114 colleges eventually signed on to the program, particularly when they were informed that College Promise dollars would only be available to those students attending colleges that were participating in the CCC Guided Pathways Grant Program, a requirement added to AB 19 (Santiago, 2017) between July 3 and September 8 of 2017. Participating colleges committed to integrating other funding resources to redesign academic pathways and support services. The goals for the redesign were threefold: to promote better course-taking decisions, minimize achievement gaps, and increase the number of students who earn a certificate or degree. The CCCCO and the California Community Colleges Board of Governors were responsible for distributing the funding from the Guided Pathways Grant Program using a formula. As allowed in legislation, 10% or $15M from the award was used by the CCCCO, leaving $135M allocated by the following formula: 35% of the funds based on the college’s total FTES, 45% of the funds based on the total number of Pell grants awarded, and 20% distributed equally to all colleges, with each college being allocated at least $500,000. The total allocation has been spread over five years as follows: 25% in year 1, 30% in year 2, 25% in year 3, 10% in year 4, and 10% in year 5. The CCCCO guaranteed that colleges would have ample time to plan and expend the awards thoughtfully and effectively. In order to receive the funding, colleges were required to attend an Institutional Effectiveness Planning Initiative Workshop, complete a guided pathways self-assessment, and submit a workplan. 
Initially, colleges submitted a self-assessment describing how first-year allocations were expended, and plans were reviewed by a group formed by the CCCCO that included faculty represetntatives. In a June 2018 Research and Planning Group study, these plans indicated the following College Allocation Phase I Funding Highlights: 
- Total one-time allocation for CCC GP by State of California: $150M
- Phase I allocation by CCCCO to CCC: approximately $34M
- CCC allocations of CCC GP awards:
- Instructional Salaries = $11,547,508
- Other Operating Expenses and Services = $8,417,213
- Non-instructional Salaries = $6,422,236
- Employees Benefits = $3,466,361
In support of the guided pathways effort, the ASCCC has focused on governance, transparency, and implementation to help colleges use the funding and plan wisely through webinars, regional meetings and workshops, breakouts at statewide conferences, and local college technical visits. Access to these presentations is readily available at the ASCCC Guided Pathways Canvas, ASCCC Guided Pathways Resources, and ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force webpages.
To date, based on approximate numbers provided to the ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force from the CCCCO, $108,000,000, or 80% or the total, has been allocated in the first three years to the 114 colleges. Colleges should note that the funding drops significantly for each of the last two years; the total allocation pattern as not changed. The lower amounts in the last two years may have a significant impact on many of the salaried and reassigned positions established by colleges. For example, some colleges have indicated that funds from the Guided Pathways Grant Program were shifted to implement AB705, a small component of the guided pathways work that relates to a single metric: throughput in English and mathematics. Concerns are now arising that while for many students this single metric indicated success for the college, other students never “entered a path” or are now off-path with no support or alternatives to actually begin to work toward their educational goals that go beyond mathematics, English, and English as a Second Language.
In addition, $15M of the $150M from the Guided Pathways Grant Program funds were expended by the CCCCO for indirect support to the colleges from 2018 through the end of 2020. Funds have been drawn from both the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative (IEPI), and the Student Equity and Achievement Program totaling approximately $40M, with approximate amounts spent for the following:
- Technology, Communication, and Outreach (approximately $16M),
- Technical Assistance and Professional Development (approximately $18M),
- Staffing such as consultants, employees and advisors (approximately $16M), and
Projects and Events such as Multiple Measures Assessment Project and College Roadtrip (approximately $5M). 
These statewide investments by the CCCCO represent an additional $55M. The ASCCC has requested data on the effectiveness of strategies such as the events sponsored by the IEPI, the work of the seventeen Guided Pathways Regional Coordinators, the Vision Resource Center, and other specific components that appear to be associated with the Guided Pathways Grant Program. Researchers from the EdInsights Center at CSU Sacramento attend Guided Pathways Advisory Committee meetings and function as external evaluators to assess the effectiveness of state level strategies.
EdInsights has also visited colleges and solicited specific input on the value of these expenditures by interviewing college personnel; however, not all of the results have yet been reported. Some of the initial conclusions from EdInsights research include the following:
- Widespread general awareness of GP, but variation in depth of understanding across college constituencies.
- Widespread establishment of college-level governance structures to lead GP efforts.
- Variation in efforts to cultivate collaboration and engagement across college constituencies.
- Majority of colleges in early stages of GP design and planning process.
- Desire to include more student voices in GP design and planning process.
- Common GP implementation challenges identified across colleges.
- Mixed perceptions about existing CCCCO supports for GP efforts.
Many interviewees found the non-CCCCO professional development offerings most useful, praising Leading from the Middle, ASCCC GP workshops, and the GP Demonstration Project Institutes. Feedback about the utility of guided pathways supports provided through the CCCCO was mixed. Those in leadership positions were familiar with the Regional Coordinators, the Vision Resource Center, and the CCCCO GP workshops sponsored through the IEPI but had varying levels of engagement with these resources (Tan, C., Moore, C, & Schanger, C., 2019).
The $55M represents an enormous investment that some in the system argue could have been used more effectively if it had been allocated to the colleges for use in local implementation efforts.
Many questions remain about the future of guided pathways implementation, such as the following:
- Have the guided pathways funds been spent effectively?
- Are colleges prepared for the sharp decrease in local funding?
- What happens when the funding runs out?
The ASCCC will continue to ask questions and report to the field as information becomes available. In the meantime, local academic senates should continue to ask questions. Communities are counting on their colleges to ensure that money is spent wisely in a relentless effort to improve students’ educational experiences and help them to reach their educational goals.
SB 85. (2017). Retrived from http://cccgp.cccco.edu/Portals/0/SB85_2017-2018%28pgs_26-31%29.pdf
Tan, C., Moore, C, & Schanger, C. (2019, June). Implementing Guided Pathways in the California Community Colleges: Preliminary Findings from Spring 2019 College Visits.
1. Further information on these requirements is available at http://cccgp.cccco.edu/FAQ.
2. Further information on this study is available at http://cccgp.cccco.edu/Portals/0/Work-Plan-Analysis-7_5_18-ADA.pdf
3. Guided Pathways Budget Summary from CCCCO, February 27, 2020