Davis Jenkins

Helpful Advice to Universities & Colleges about Pathways


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If you’ve done work with effective transfer programs and/or Pathways work, you’ve likely heard or read work from Davis Jenkins with the Community College Research Center. In addition to his work as Senior Research Associate at CCRC, Jenkins also serves on the Civitas Learning National Advisory Board. He recently was a guest on Mark Milliron’s podcast “Catalytic Conversations.” Milliron is co-founder and chief learning officer for Civitas Learning. Please enjoy the podcast below of their conversation.

Pathways to Increase Success & Decrease Excess Credit Hours
davis jenkins

Jenkins has been part of a body of work informing policy and practice about ‘Pathways’ – an innovative movement in the community college landscape started in about 2000 – that has gained notable momentum in the last few years. Hundreds of colleges are now engaged with Pathways work with the goal of increasing term-over-term persistence and student success, while decreasing the number of excess credits students take.

The excess credits issue is a looming concern to both colleges and universities as well as the students they serve. So much so, that some states have implemented legislation that authorizes surcharges to university and college students taking excess credits toward their degree plan. An example is Florida’s Excess Credit Hour Law. The Excess Credit Hour Surcharge is a state mandated fee that requires universities to add a surcharge to each credit hour that is more than 110 percent of hours needed for completion of a degree, or 132 hours for 120 credit hour degree programs.

Texas is grappling with a large excess credits issues. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, on average, associate degree graduates completed 90 hours for a degree that requires just over 60. At the university level, students are taking an average of 147 credits for 120 credit bachelor’s degree. In Texas, that translates to an additional $15 million in costs for the state and an average of $6,600 more for the student.

In this podcast, Jenkins explores the four key aspects of effective Pathways:

  1. The Clarity of the Path – You’ll hear his advice about starting with the end in mind, then working backward from career to university or community college degree planning.
  2. Rethinking the Intake System – He notes this as the largest concern and most important facet for leading administrators to be considering. He recommends moving from traditional DevEd and rubrics that declare some students college ready and others not – often incorrectly – to a model of on ramps into their program of study. You’ll hear more about meta majors and the role they play in effective pathways as well.
  3. Tracking the Progress – He speaks to his recent research indicating the need for colleges to be more vigilant in this regard (especially in GenEd programs) and the benefits to both colleges and students for doing so.
  4. Ensuring the Students Learn Across the Program –Jenkins discusses how prepared students entering the workforce are those who learned across the program of study, not just in major courses. He’ll provide advice about injecting a coherent set of skills across the curriculum.

We are hemorrhaging human potential.
– Davis Jenkins

Listen and learn why Jenkins and others believe this work has a compelling moral imperative, and how the failure to do this right can do harm to under-represented students who tragically blame themselves when the system fails.

For more information, please view all CCRC publications on student persistence, completion and transfer here on their website.

Podcast Music: “A Human Being” by Andy G. Cohen. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution International License.


Austin Community College discusses their work on pathways to empower students as they make critical decisions throughout their education journey, helping them stay on track to completion.


Dr. Davis Jenkins

Dr. Davis Jenkins is a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. He works with colleges and states to find ways to improve educational and employment outcomes for students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to prepare students to succeed in further education and careers. His research and thinking have informed the development and spread of innovative approaches to improving student outcomes, including career pathways, adult technical bridge programs (such as Washington State's I-BEST), and guided pathways to success (GPS). He is a founding member of the Civitas Learning National Advisory Board.

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