The City University of New York (CUNY) is the nation’s largest urban public university, consisting of seven open-access community colleges, 11 senior colleges, and seven graduate and professional schools. The colleges are distributed across the city and serve 243,000 degree-seeking students and approximately 200,000 noncredit/continuing education students annually. Recent system and state policy developments are positioned to offer additional support and completion momentum to current and future CUNY students. Three years ago, CUNY’s Board of Trustees established a policy that requires all CUNY colleges to have an official user-friendly process for applying Credit for Prior Learning to college credit degrees and certificates. This policy is now active at all CUNY institutions. In addition, the state of New York expanded eligibility for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to part-time students effective immediately, enabling at least 30,000 more learners to receive aid. The program requires matriculation into a college credit program of study, something which micro-pathways accelerate since all are designed with credits that apply to higher learning. Final regulations are being established that include resources available to non-citizens who reside in the state. In addition to policy partners, CUNY schools also benefit from a partnership with the New York Jobs CEO Council, that connects colleges to corporations throughout the New York metropolitan area to enrich training programs and expedite job placement for completers.
CUNY colleges that were part of the Community College Growth Engine’s first cohort include Kingsborough, Queensborough, Borough of Manhattan, and LaGuardia community colleges.
Kingsborough Community College (KCC) was founded in 1964 and is the only public community college in Brooklyn, New York. The college is led by Dr. Claudia V. Schrader, who was appointed president in 2018. KCC offers over 50 programs for its nearly 8,500 degree-seeking students and hundreds of career-focused courses for its 9,800 continuing education students annually. The college serves an extremely diverse group of learners who are 37% Black, 29% White, 18% Hispanic, and 15% Asian. Bucking declining national enrollment trends, the Division of Workforce Development and Continuing Education has increased enrollment by over 2,000 students since 2018 and has substantially diversified course offerings to include on-site, hybrid, and fully online learning options.
What is a micro-pathway?
Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage, and start learner-earners on the path to an associate degree.
CUNY Kingsborough Community College’s User Experience (UX) Designer Certificate leads to a career as a User Experience (UX) Designer. Download the PDF.
College micro-pathway website: https://cewdkbcc.com/ux-microcredential/
The Education Design Lab’s micro-pathway design process offered KCC a template for updating existing training programs and developing new ones. College leaders have adopted the CCGE design criteria (pictured above) and now use it across the division to facilitate program updates and standardize the workforce-centered program priorities. The Emergency Medical Technician program is an example of a new offering that is using the Lab’s design tools to train students for careers across the allied health field where knowledge of critical procedures is a prerequisite to providing patient care.
The Lab’s T-Profile tool has facilitated deep and continuous dialogue with employer partners to ensure the curriculum provides learners with the set of skills that are most relevant in specialized workplaces. The strong relationships KCC developed with employers before joining CCGE was taken to a new level as they used the T-Profile to reaffirm the most critical technical and 21st century skills the jobs require. Having a structured framework for engagement made it easy to maintain continuous communication with employers, enriching everything from the course curriculum to opportunities for work-based learning to off-ramps students could use to secure employment upon completion.
Co-developing pathways with employers has created a fresh synergy around workforce programs, energizing both faculty and employers. This work has included designing accelerated pathways for learners who are already in fields such as healthcare, allowing them to apply what they already know and complete micro-pathway certifications in half the time of incoming students new to the discipline.
KCC micro-pathways bridge the noncredit/credit divide by including units that completers can automatically apply to higher certifications in college credit programs. This is a strategic priority for both the college and CUNY. The micro-pathways are all designed as stackable training programs that simultaneously lead to higher learning opportunities and professional advancement. This adds momentum to student progress and increases the value proposition to students as they see all learning will count toward valuable credentials.
Micro-pathways will be featured as an example of instructional innovation as the college begins a self-evaluation process leading to the reaffirmation of accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Designing and activating training programs that are workforce relevant, equity-centered, and highly accessible to traditional and new majority learners is a goal of the college that has been achieved through micro-pathways and other accelerated programs. Through the activation of these model programs and documentation of the results achieved by students, KCC can demonstrate its power to catalyze economic mobility for students and its institutional effectiveness.
Obstacles + opportunities
Co-create from the beginning: It’s important to articulate the roles that partners have in the micro-pathway development process and to engage the strengths of employers, funders, community-based organizations, as well as college and university leaders. This will be accomplished by proactively engaging partners and stakeholders to drive program design rather than asking them to approve of an already developed program.
Funding for faculty stipends should be deployed as early as possible so noncredit/credit faculty teams can be involved in the design process from the beginning.
Inclusion in the strategic plan: By spotlighting the contributions of micro-pathways in the college’s strategic plan, KCC highlights their value as a distinctive accelerated training opportunity for students as well as an on-ramp to credit programs.
“Our expanding partnerships with discipline experts in Academic Affairs and regional employers have allowed us to adapt the Lab’s design process to co-create high-demand training programs leading to jobs that offer career advancement and a living wage for our talented students.”
Dr. Simone Rodriguez, Vice President, Workforce Development, Continuing Education and Strategic Partnerships, Kingsborough Community College
The Education Design Lab thanks the following leaders at Kingsborough Community College for their commitment to innovation, student completion, success, and equity: Dr. Simone Rodriguez, Christine Zagari, Alissa Levine, and Jessica Cinelli.This article by Dr. Sara Lundquist is part of the Lab’s work helping community colleges innovate and transform through the micro-pathways design process. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine here, download our Design Insights Brief, subscribe to our email newsletter for updates, and follow along on Twitter: #Micropathways.