Houston colleges collaborate across sectors to increase student success

Two- and four-year colleges across Houston, Texas, have joined forces “to create pathways across sectors” in hopes of improving graduation rates city-wide, Inside Higher Ed reports. The initiative, called Houston GPS, makes transferring between schools easier and seeks to reduce redundant or sidetracked coursework, accelerating degree completion.

Participating entities and their commitments

Launched four years ago, Houston GPS is composed of the The University of Houston System (University of Houston, UH-Clear Lake, UH-Downtown, and UH-Victoria); Texas Southern University; Houston Community College System; Lone Star College System; San Jacinto College District; Wharton County Junior College; Victoria College; and College of the Mainland. Houston GPS also works with Complete College America, a nonprofit working to “eliminate achievement gaps by providing equity of opportunity for all students to complete college degrees and credentials of purpose and value.”

To streamline students’ path to a degree, the Houston GPS agreement encourages schools to align their math courses to specific majors and careers, shift class schedules to accommodate working students, and to track student progress via predictive analytics and intrusive advising. The initiative also focuses on transfers, ensuring that students who complete an associate’s degree at a two-year Houston GPS institution are able to enter a four-year Houston GPS institution as a junior.

Community progress toward a shared goal

Tom Sugar, the former president of Complete College America and now vice president of partnerships at EAB, called Houston GPS schools’ collaboration to design aligned academic plans and degree maps “nirvana.” He told Inside Higher Ed that, in the past, schools “never had conversations like that. It’s always been them designing degree maps within their institutions and not looking down the street at … a competitor school and asking, ‘What are you doing down there?'”

Beyond its holistic approach at the metropolitan level, the Houston GPS collaboration also reflects a statewide push to increase degree attainment. The Texas Legislature in 2015 set a goal of ensuring at least 60 percent of the state’s 25- to 34-year-old residents have a college certificate or degree by 2030. That number currently stands at 42.3 percent.

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