Determined to raise retention rates, Klamath Community College mandated orientation and advising and eliminated late registration, reports Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. The cost of improved retention was lower enrollment. The small college in southern Oregon saw enrollment fall 20 parent last fall, cutting state funds by $800,000, more than 7 percent of Klamath’s total annual budget.
“We have a system that doesn’t reward student success,” said Roberto Gutierrez, the college president. “It rewards seat time.”
Klamath Community College is an Achieving the Dream partner institution.
Achieving the Dream is a vocal supporter of “make it mandatory,” a refrain often used by Kay McClenney, an expert on community colleges and director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement. McClenney, backed by research, argues that mandatory orientations and advising can boost student retention rates.
For example, prior to last year, only 50 percent of students at Klamath were attending orientation. College officials said that means those students were missing out on vital information about the college and how to navigate it.
Yet many colleges resist the mandatory approach, feeling it is paternalistic and too prescriptive for the large numbers of adult students who attend community colleges, where the average age of students typically hovers around 25. And red tape and hassles, like mandatory scheduling, can discourage students who may have been on the fence about attending college in the first place.
Students who can’t make the time to go to orientation or meet with an advisor probably won’t make the time for college classes, Gutieriez believes.
Banning late registration is hard adult students, who are juggling jobs and family duties. But it’s clear that late registrants have very high failure rates.
Klamath’s new policy “resembles recent decisions by a few for-profits, including the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, which have created free trial periods” for prospective students, Fain writes. Those who realize they’re not ready for college can quit without using up financial aid, running up debt — or raising the university’s failure statistics.
Klamath’s graduation rate for first-time, full-time students is only 17 percent; another 31 percent transfers. That could improve in the future: Fall-to-winter retention rates jumped from 60 percent for first-year students to 80 percent this year.
“What is your dream job and how is your college helping you get there?” DREAM Big for College is offering scholarships to community college students who submit informal videos that describe their obstacles and inspiration, and how they’re using Achieving the Dream programs to reach their goals. Videos can be submitted through Nov. 28.
Improving student success at Dayton’s Sinclair Community College began in 2005, when the college began to work with Achieving the Dream (ATD), writes Kathleen Cleary, associate provost for student success, on Accelerating Achievement. But that was just the first step.
. . . we approached improving student success, particularly for underserved populations, as a way of life at the college, rather than a program that would have a beginning and ending. With the Developmental Education Initiative (DEI), we . . . began to make bolder, more aggressive changes in our pedagogy, structures, and curriculum.
When we learned that we were granted funding for Completion by Design (CBD), we took a different approach and made the conscious decision to be high profile, even creating a statewide Completion by Design office on campus.
Achieving the Dream focused Sinclair on “use of data, policy changes, and a commitment to enhancing teaching and learning,” Cleary writes.
Faculty began tracking student success in gatekeeper courses in developmental and college-level English, reading, and math. When faculty saw their success rates, they began to experiment with new ways of teaching and structuring courses. Policy changes such as the no late registration policy were watershed moments for the college as we made a cultural shift from an access-centric institution to an access and success focus. Another hallmark of our ATD work was the creation of the Center for Teaching and Learning, which has provided professional development on topics including student engagement, diversity in the classroom, and increasing student success and completion.
DEI initiatives such as math modules, accelerated English and early support in high school helped accelerate students’ progress through developmental education.
With Completion by Design, Sinclair and other Ohio community colleges hope to “create a seamless pathway” to graduation for students.
For students with weak academic skills, a summer “bridge” to college-level classes can improve the odds of success, reports Education Week.
“Summer bridge programs can provide an important head start on college,” said Elisabeth Barnett, a senior research associate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Community College Research Center in New York. “They can increase the chances that students will enter college without needing remediation, and they can help students to gain comfort with the college environment and with themselves as college students.”
Such programs, which tend to run four to five weeks, offer intensive academic instruction. At-risk students are often recruited, and colleges generally pick up the tab as an enticement.
Students can come for the day or, at some institutions, live in the dorms. In developmental programs, classes focus on mathematics or English. Other campuses allow students to take a broader range of courses. Almost all find providing “college knowledge” through peer mentors is a valuable way to help students feel more confident about the transition to campus.
However, some colleges have had to cut back for lack of funding.
The National Center for Postsecondary Research is studying summer bridge programs in Texas and at the University of Washington at Tacoma to see if they improve students’ odds of success. Only 25 percent of new community college students are fully prepared for college-level coursework, Achieving the Dream estimates.
Remedial math enrolls — and fails — more community college students than any other class. Some of the Achieving the Dream colleges are redesigning remedial math and improving success rates, reports Community College Week.
The College of the Mainland in Texas City, Texas increased first-year students passing remedial math to 54.8 percent in 2009 from 46 percent in 2003-06. The college credits instructor training and a student success course.
Change was more dramatic at Galveston College in Galveston, Texas, which changed the curriculum and adopted MyMathLab software. Success rates rose from 21 percent in 2006 to 58.6 percent in 2010.
At Roxbury Community College, in a historically African-American section of Boston, 70 percent of students require remediation. In 2006, only 11 percent of remedial math students were able to take college-level math by their third semester. That rose to 25 percent by 2009.
RCC offers workshops before students take placement tests to help students — especially adults who’ve been out of school for years — brush up on math skills. Accurate placement boosts success rates, said Sterling Giles, the college’s ATD coordinator.
The college now has three levels of developmental math. The most demanding is aimed at those students intent on pursuing careers in the sciences. The other two, into which the vast majority of students are placed, are basic math and introductory algebra.
“We separated the majority of students from the science track,” Giles said. “We stopped making students take those courses. We want to give the students facility at math, but we also want to be intelligent with the appropriate placement.”
The college also strives to assure that students don’t languish in math courses they can easily master. By taking a modular approach to math instruction, students can test out of one module and quickly progress to the next, focusing on the skills they need
Periodic math clinics and workshops — including one focusing on math anxiety — are designed to help students through their coursework. A computer-equipped math lab provides a place where students in need of help can go to work with peers and instructors.
The college also requires a one-credit college survival seminar to ensure students know how to access academic and support services.
These colleges improved graduation rates, closed achievement gaps and changed lives, said the nonprofit. For example, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas strengthened remedial education coursework and increased the college’s three-year completion rate to 24 percent from 10 percent over a four-year period.
Complete College America’s new CCA Blog is kicking off with a series on remediation, which is “broken.”
If they show up at all — a recent study of Virginia community college students reported that as many as 40 percent of those assigned to math remediation did not attend the first day of class – students are quickly defeated by a system that condemns them to semester after semester of remedial courses.
Students get the message that “college completion is a hopeless goal. . . . After all, how can they complete something they’re not even allowed to start?”
Out of 42,000 Texas students assigned to remedial math three years ago, only 14 percent completed the college level math course in three years. A recent survey of Achieving the Dream colleges indicated that in the same three-year period, as many as 78 percent of students didn’t attempt a gateway math course and 54 percent did not attempt a gateway English course.
The blog will look at new remedial models, such as letting students enroll in remedial and college-level courses at the same time with extra support.
The average American student attends an open-admissions community college or a not-very selective four-year university, but doesn’t complete a degree. Raising graduation rates is proving to be a difficult challenges, the Hechinger Report finds.
Achieving the Dream began working on the goal seven years ago with pilot programs at 26 community colleges. After expanding to 160 colleges and spending $76 million, Achievng the Dream hasn’t increased graduation rates, according to a MDRC review released in February.
“We have not found any magic bullets,” says Thomas Brock, MDRC’s director of policy for postsecondary education. “The budget-cutting and the difficulty students are having getting into classes—those are pushing back against the goal.”
Community colleges enroll many low-income, immigrant and first-generation college students who often are juggling jobs and family responsibilities; some have been out of school for years.
Sixty percent or more require remedial education, according to Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.
“They don’t have money, they’re working, they’re the people who are least likely to afford the tuition increases,” says Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, a national nonprofit working to increase the number of Americans with a college degree or credential. “We have a lot of work to do so that we don’t fail them.”
“We are beginning to see examples of community colleges that, through focused effort sustained over time, are ‘moving the needle’ on student progress and success indicators,” says Kay McClenney, who directs the Community College Survey of Student Engagement and teaches in the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Eventually, that should result in higher hgraduation rates, but it won’t happen quickly, McClenney says.
By working with local high schools on college readiness, El Paso Community College has cut the percentage of new students placed in low-level remedial math, notes Jack Rotman on Developmental Math Revival. Previously, 31 percent of new students started in the lowest remedial math level and 28 percent in the highest level. That’s shifted to 22 percent at the lowest level and 41 percent at the highest level.
EPCC worked with 12 local school districts (in a “blameless environment”) and with the University of Texas El Paso to create a “college readiness protocol” in high schools, reports (pdf) Achieving the Dream.
As juniors and seniors, virtually all El Paso-area students complete a joint admissions application to EPCC and UTEP. They prepare for and take the Accuplacer test to determine college readiness, review scores with counselors, “refresh” their skills and take the test again, if necessary. Some enroll in a summer bridge program to strengthen their basic skills.
With all this, most EPCC students aren’t ready for college reading and very few are ready for math. In the two-year period before the readiness protocol was used, 3 percent tested as ready in math, 30 percent in reading and 51 percent in writing. That increased to 5 percent in math, 35 percent in reading and 66 percent in writing.
Achieving the Dream‘s dream – improving success rates for community college students — hasn’t faded, reports Inside Higher Ed. In February, an MDRC evaluation found little change in student outcomes over five years at 26 colleges that were the first to implement Achieving the Dream’s recommended strategies. Now the nonprofit is acting to implement the critique’s recommendations, starting with engaging faculty in student success initiatives.
It’s especially important to involve adjunct instructors, who are the most likely to teach remedial classes to high-risk students, MDRC advised.
Several “dream” colleges are doing a good job involving faculty, a new Achieving the Dream publication found.
Sinclair Community College, in Ohio, took its faculty and staff on a “data retreat” to look at student success data together. It also gathered quantitative and qualitative information from professors and students in developmental math courses to use to improve the courses in later years.
Meanwhile, Houston Community College, in Texas, and Valencia Community College, in Florida, hold large meetings with all faculty and staff members annually to discuss their Achieving the Dream goals and strategies.
Luzelma Canales, director of grant development at South Texas College, noted that her institution has always had a faculty-led process for all Achieving the Dream related changes, such as those in advising, assessment, placement, matriculation and student accountability. She said that her institution’s faculty was able to successfully push for a program to train all faculty members in advising. Since 2006, more than 400 faculty members have completed at least one level of advising training.
Achieving the Dream will go on to focus on other MDRC recommendations, such as scaling up promising strategis to reach more students, focusing more on improving teaching and learning in the classroom and helping colleges with “very weak data capacity” assess their work.