Completion Matters – 2

The discussion of completion has been fruitful. I agree that we should use multiple measures. We are an accredited institution, and several faculty members have justifiably highlighted our last review, where the Higher Learning Commission recommended our next review in ten years, or 2018-2019. 
I decided to consult the review for guidance on what we may face in seven years time regarding measures of student success. The write-up was illuminating. As always, I welcome your thoughtful comments.
From the “Report of a Comprehensive Evaluation Visit to Harold Washington College” for the Higher Learning Commission, dated March 2 – 4, 2009.
Topic Four:  Improving Graduation Rates
Harold Washington College staff identified the relatively low graduation rate as an area upon which to focus consultative advice in the Advancement Section of the team report. Indeed the 4% graduation yearly rates is among the lowest in the country for community colleges. HWC appropriately identified numerous other student success measures that contribute to student outcomes, as all community colleges contend (rightly so) that graduation rates are not a significant indicator of success, as a large percentage of of students do not enter community colleges with the intent to graduate. Yet increasingly, federal and state reporting requirements and accreditation bodies require documentation of graduation rates, as well as course and program retention rates, semester to semester and yearly persistence rates, and transfer success rates. Consequently, HWC must become more focused on collecting data that describes student success, with an emphasis on improving graduation rates. [emphasis mine]
In order to adequately address the multi-faceted issue of improving the number of students to graduate, there must be a comprehensive effort across the college to improve this measure of student success. A plan for graduation improvement should be crafted that examines impediments to student graduation and a call to action to increase student graduation rates. Once completed, the president could call a ‘graduation summit day’ where the entire college convenes to focus on the effort to improve graduation rates. Programs, both career/technical and the liberal arts, should be challenged and held accountable to increase the graduation rate by an identified percentage over a 3 to 5 year period. Programs that meet or exceed the goals should be rewarded; programs that don’t should be required to develop additional strategies for improvement.
A marketing campaign about the value of graduating from HWC should be launched that informs students about the benefit of holding a HWC diploma or degree. It would be very valuable to forge partnerships with baccalaureate institutions to garner support for the mechanisms to foster graduation at the associate degree prior to transfer. Some universities will work with community colleges to retroactively award an associates degree students that transfer a certain number of credits short of the earned degree. Once the student pleads the credits, the university registrar will transfer the credits back to the community college, and the student is awarded the associates degree. While the attainment of an associates degree is not necessarily important to the student at the time, it is valuable to demonstrate that through a combination of the community college and the baccalaureate degree institution, the student did obtain the associates degree credential, also providing the student documentation of degree obtainment in the event that a baccalaureate degree is not completed.

It is important for Harold Washington College to collect and analyze student data that will better assist student persistence to graduation. For example, the accuracy of career and technical declared major data is critical to track students through coursework to graduation. Use of online degree audit systems provides accurate data to student services personnel, program faculty, and students. . . . The process for improving graduation rates is multi-faceted, and will take time and concentrated effort to measure progress.

4 thoughts on “Completion Matters – 2

  1. it's been a whole year since the reinvention started , I can't count hoe many meetings I had with the task force back when I was in SGA , anyway, whenever they pulled out that graduation rate power point slideshow , i argued that the number does not directly reflects with our student' quality , and should not be use as a guideline to determine student success. I'm going to a 4- year institute next semester, and most likely I will not want to go through all these headaches to get an AS degree here. Which means I will not be count towards either the graduation rate or the transfer rate , since I did all the application myself instead of the transfer center . Does that means that I 'm not a successful student ? Couple days ago , I was reading this article on TIME magazine ( Quote ) : It's not that the National Breast Cancer Research Center is a scam. It's more like a charity within a charity, run by an organization called the Walker Cancer Research Institute. The parent organization, based in Aberdeen, Md., dutifully files tax returns that show it raised $12.7 million in 2009 and spent 52% of it on fundraising. The return also reports that the organization spent exactly $487,505, or about 4% of its income, on research — most of it for probing plant life for anticancer compounds. Given that kind of research commitment, the group is unlikely to make significant advances anytime soon.Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2075133_2075127_2075103,00.html #ixzz1Q2q1fL2f(quote ) I can't help but to relate this article to our school 's reinvention proposal , how many % of money had we actually been spending directly towards the student's education ? ( i hope it's more than 4% ) While we dump millions of dollars for hiring consulting firms to change our images and colors and logos and letterheads …. or hiring task force members with 6 figures salary ; we still only have TWO copier machines ( when either one is ALWAYS out of service ) , the advising and financial aid office are way under staffs ( and close at 2pm ? ) and oh , we still have to share that 10-years old NMR at Truman with other 6 city colleges . CCC has research programs and offer lots of upper level science courses , yet our Organic chemistry students will never be able to see what an NMR looks like. this is a real shame . Just like these cancer research organizations in the article , i 'm afraid we will end up spending all these valuable money on PR, marketing , corporate image , surveys ,etc…. instead of new lab equipments and a few extra staffs to stamp our FAFSA papers.

  2. I agree with various aspects of the report’s assessment and recommendations. Yes, our graduation rate is low; however, we need to evaluate what we are doing well, and where improvement is needed as it relates to retaining our students. We must also look at how we guide students through the phases of their academic and professional career, leading into transfers, graduation and eventually, gainful employment. Beyond the core requirements of classroom learning, textbooks and exams, what support are we currently providing to ensure that students are engaged and thinking of the long-term? How are we helping them shape their professional future from day one at CCC? These are all factors for consideration when strategizing on how to increase graduation rates. Another point made in the report that I’d like to highlight is the “marketing campaign about the value of graduation from HWC that should inform students about the benefit of holding a HWC diploma or degree”. Yes, we need to aggressively market the benefits of an education from CCC but first, we need to ensure that we have relevant “wins” and “success stories” to market. In my opinion, one way this can be achieved is through forging partnerships within the business community of Chicago. The benefit of this is two-fold: first, we could use those relationships to serve as a “bridge” between students and employers so we are giving our students gainful internship or employment opportunities. Second, we are establishing meaningful relationships with the Chicago business community that will result in additional “free marketing” for CCC. My long-term vision for CCC is that when meetings take place within the upper echelons of Chicago’s business & political community, CCC should be a topic of discussion, and a favorable one. Our students should be the pipeline of quality talent that Chicago corporations are seeking ; through this we are meeting the needs of our students as well as making CCC an invaluable resource to the business community. We also need to identify what “benefit” means for our students and what it means to our organization. Yes, our students are attending CCC because they want an education; however, their ultimate goal is to obtain gainful employment upon completion of their classes, certificates or degree. A college experience that goes beyond the classroom experience and also focuses on meaningful career planning and placement is the ultimate benefit for our students.

  3. I 've given the same comments to the admins regards direct internship with the city and other big corporation that connects with CCC . After all , employment opportunities will surely encourage students to finish their degree knowing they might actually got a job with that AS/AA degree.

  4. I am very interested in this debate and do believe there are multiple issues but, at the moment, I have a quick two – 1) there have been no studies (that I can find) on student success after leaving a community college if indeed, as Angie says, they do not choose to get the AA/AS and they handle the transfer process themselves (from my experience, this includes a significant number of students). If an accurate measure of success is to be tabulated, these students need to be studied. The 'how' of it…well, I don't know – that would have to be for those talented in creating such studies. One suggestion would be a type of alum society. 2) Many of my students often are put in a difficult situation with childcare. HWC is one of the few (perhaps only) City Colleges that does not have some type of childcare either affiliated with the school or directly on the campus. The demographic of our institution is a higher percent of women and many of them have children. Childcare is expensive and sometimes difficult to find. As stated, "A plan for graduation improvement should be crafted that examines impediments to student graduation and a call to action to increase student graduation rates"…and childcare is just one impediment students face that we could solve.

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