Prince George’s Community College has been instituting a holistic advising model to guide and support learners in its credit-bearing programs. For learners in Continuing Education (CE) programs, however, the college hasn’t been able to provide much-needed advising services due to severe resource constraints—until now. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Maryland issued the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Act, creating a flow of funding to Prince George’s to help individuals who have lost jobs or have had their hours reduced enroll in and complete short-term workforce development programs leading to industry-based credentials. Continuing Education learners are included in access to this funding and the college capacity it creates.
How is Prince George’s using this unprecedented funding? To start, they’re hiring “Geer” Advisors to work directly with their Continuing Education learners. Prince George’s is supplementing the GEER Act funding with part of the incentive grant they received as part of the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund—CCGEF or the Fund, for short—design accelerator to build and scale what we call “micro-pathways.” Micro-pathways are two or more stackable credentials (21st century skills included) validated by employers that lead unemployed, displaced, and underpaid or low-wage workers to median-wage occupations and on a path to a degree.
Seven part-time Geer Advisors are supporting learners in their three new micro-pathways, Healthcare Technician, IT Support Specialist, and Hospitality Leadership, which are all housed under the Continuing Education umbrella. June Evans, design lead for Prince George’s CCGEF team and director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Yvette Snowden, associate vice president of Workforce Programs, Innovation, and Partnerships, facilitated journey mapping activities with internal stakeholders at the college to build out the new Geer advising model. Journey mapping, a human-centered design tool, was used to gain insight into a learner’s lived experience from admissions to orientation, all the way through moving into employment or further along the education continuum.
As Dr. Snowden shares, “We are constantly helping students see their goals and additional ways to support them along their journey that will help them go further. This is a system of support that helps them address barriers that may prevent them from reaching their fullest potential.”
Below are three ways Geer Advisors will serve learners:
- Aid in getting started: Geer Advisors will assist learners with the admissions and registration process, then conduct individual or small group orientation sessions. Advisors will make sure learners have access to any wrap-around supports they may need such as transportation, child care, or internet access.
- Troubleshoot academic issues: Geer Advisors will partner with instructors in flagging any issues learners may have with completing their coursework. They will ensure appropriate interventions are made to support learners and help them make it to the finish line of completion.
- Facilitate the articulation process of noncredit to credit: As is an important innovation with micro-pathways for the CCGEF cohort, the Geer Advisors will expedite the noncredit-to-credit articulation process. That means providing learners with any needed paperwork and shepherding it through the PLA process to ensure they receive credit if they choose to continue on their education journey at that time.
Prince George’s Community College is ecstatic to be able to provide the learners in their micro-pathways with the support they need. The alignment of credit and Continuing Education services is part of an overall shift the college is making towards reimagining postsecondary education. In the end, this is about how to create systems that benefit all students, of which Geer Advisors is an integral part.
This article is written by Valerie Taylor as part of a new mini publication series, Innovation Snapshots: Ideas in Action. This series dives into the many innovative ideas and models that we have co-designed with 135+ colleges and learning institutions to better center and support new majority learners in reaching their goals. Spotlighting our partners across different Lab-driven initiatives, each part of this series focuses on a process or framework and the resulting work of a different partner. Find the rest of the series here.