Pathways program provides route from community college to UI

By Cecilia Milmoe, Matt Troher and JP Legarte

For many students, community college serves as a stepping stone between high school and the University. For engineering students, the Engineering Pathways program provides a unique community college experience.

Since 2010, the Engineering Pathways program, run through the Grainger College of Engineering, has offered students guaranteed admission into Engineering from participating community colleges. Students spend two years at their community college before transferring into Engineering for their junior year.

Participating students are held to high academic standards and must maintain a GPA over 3.5 to stay in the program. Students must also earn a B or higher in all required courses and stick to regimented plans of study that are according to their community college.

While the application process used to only be open to high school seniors, Keri Niehans, the director of the program, said changes were made to make the program more accessible.

“We really tried to look at what was necessary as a barrier to entry and what was preventing accessibility,” Niehans said.

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Now, students already in community college can apply.

Lucas Pruett, senior in Engineering, said the primary reason he became interested in the program was the lower cost.

“I’ll almost have no loans when I graduate, which is a huge advantage,” Pruett said.

Niehans said the purpose of the program is to provide an alternative way for engineering students to attend the University.

“It’s to provide access and affordability to degrees,” Niehans said. “Students arrive at their destinations in various ways, and I think those students contribute a lot to the University. So this is set up to provide a different route for students who want it or need it.”

Niehans said that at any given time, the program has around 200 students enrolled in community colleges on their path to the University.

Kevin Danner, senior in Engineering, said the best part of the program is the social aspect.

“I’d say the number one thing from the program was probably the camaraderie with the other students,” Danner said. “The other kids from there were my roommates last year, and they’re some of my best friends now.”

Pruett shared a similar sentiment, saying many of his friends are engineering students within the program.

Danner said that while it varies between individuals, he found his years in community college to be stressful, and said he had to overstudy. Despite this, he said he feels the program has prepared him well.

“It does prepare you really well, if you make it through it,” Danner said.

Niehans said that while students in the program take a different route than  others, this doesn’t take away from their accomplishments.

“These are fantastic students and they’re doing amazing things, just taking a slightly different route of getting here,” Niehans said.


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