Houston Guided Pathways to Success

Houston is one the largest and most rapidly growing metro regions in the U.S. and regional gross product has been growing faster than most of the largest metro regions. However, its rate of postsecondary attainment trails the national average for metro regions. Among the 20 largest metros in the U.S., Houston ranks 19th in educational attainment. Because higher education completion rates in Houston area colleges and universities slightly lag behind the national average, the trend of change does not appear positive and slow growth in postsecondary attainment threatens economic growth in the region.

On the other hand, postsecondary participation in Houston is on the increase; colleges have expanded their reach and enrollment has grown rapidly. If institutions can now increase their completion rates, they can drive significant increases in overall attainment rates in the region.

Houston GPS is an integrated system of cohesive, interdependent strategies that are designed to increase and accelerate student completion and smooth two-year to four-year college transfer while improving educational quality for Houston area students.

The Problems:

  • Student are not graduating
  • Students are taking too much time
  • Taking too many credits
  • Spending too much money

The Reasons:

  • Poor choices
  • Unavailable courses
  • Excess credits
  • Lost transfers
  • Unnecessary credits

Strategies: GPS Essential Components

  • Default pathways
    • Structured, default pathways – students need permission to take courses not on their schedule
  • Informed choice
    • Information on careers and opportunities
    • Uses high school performance and other measures to recommend meta-majors
  • Meta-Majors
    • Broad clusters of majors (STEM, Social Sciences, Liberal Arts, Business, etc.)
    • Math aligned with Meta-Majors
    • Help students narrow their study to a major
  • Academic Maps
    • Semester-by-semester academic map of the sequential, prescriptive schedule of classes
  • Milestone Courses
    • Prerequisite courses are designated for each semester
    • College must guarantee the courses are available
  • Intrusive advising
    • Students must see their advisors before registering for classes if:
      • They do not complete the milestone course
      • Fall behind 2 or more courses
      • Have a 2.0 GPA or less for the semester
  • Corequisite remediation


  • Goal is to improve student success between universities
  • Higher graduation rates
  • More on-time graduates
  • Closing the achievement gap
  • Fewer lost credits – saving time and money

Houston GPS Goals

  • Provide a timely, structured, and seamless pathway for students transferring from Gulf Coast-Houston area community colleges to Houston area universities.
  • Boost postsecondary attainment, and increase completion and successful transfer rates in the Houston region.
  • Build a culture of timely graduation that will save everyone time and money, most importantly our students.

The University of Houston is leading the initiative in a collaborative partnership with the following four and two year institutions:

Four-year institutions:

Two-year institutions:

Supporting Partner: Complete College America

Established in 2009, Complete College America is a national nonprofit with a single mission: to work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.

Working with national consultants and practitioner experts, CCA is helping to build capacity to develop and implement guided pathway reforms across each participating college. The project will support a series of “scaling institutes” to train faculty/staff teams from the institutions to establish Guided Pathways to Success at scale on their campuses. Under the guidance of the institutional team leaders, teams also will work on crosscutting issues that impact GPS strategies (e.g., faculty engagement, transfer policies, performance management, registration, intrusive electronic advising, etc.).