Improving Degree Attainment
So what can CCs do to ensure students are able to not only enroll, but also graduate from their selected courses of study with their degrees of choice?
To begin with, CCs have typically offered too many options; students can pick and choose the courses they find most appealing without any idea of what the end result will be. This creates a situation analogous to an “all you can eat" buffet, where people tend to have bigger eyes than stomachs and often put too much onto their plates.
Colleges can prevent this by offering students clear guided pathways to help them determine their end career goals first, then work backward to figure out the most efficient route through the required curricula. Students are much more likely to reach completion if they have a detailed map they can follow. For many, a college education should offer a direct path to graduation, not a meandering river of options — and it’s up to CCs to provide the academic GPS for students.
Moreover, evidence shows that students who enroll in corequisite college-level courses and receive additional support succeed at much higher rates than students taking remedial classes. The key to such success lies in implementing strategies to support students in taking on credit-bearing courses. Students can learn from one another, and a bit of friendly competition (and peer support) among corequisite colleagues can also help them make the grade.
Take, for example, the Tennessee Promise, a statewide program offering two years of free tuition to students who meet entry criteria. As part of the Promise model, students are provided with additional support for credit-bearing classes rather than remedial courses. This stands in contrast to the previous approach in which access to such courses would be dependent on these students catching up on needed skills before being allowed to earn credit. The model is in its early stages, but participating campuses report positive results.
And finally, according to a Stanford University School of Education study, students who receive life coaching as part of their degree programs are more likely to make it to graduation. This point may be particularly salient for CC students, who typically have to balance full- or part-time work with their studies and familial obligations. Providing these students with time management, self-advocacy, and other critical skills will help them reach graduation — and, thereby, increase the number of bachelor’s degree holders — much better than reducing or eliminating the cost of tuition alone.
Enabling students to define and meet their own academic goals today will prepare them for the careers that comprise the U.S economy of tomorrow. Four-year programs are tough no matter the institution, but with the right support in place, graduation is an achievable result for all.
About the Author: Pete Wheelan, CEO of InsideTrack, has dedicated his career to leading mission-driven, high-growth companies focused on helping individuals live up to their full potential. Before joining InsideTrack, he served as chief operating officer and chief revenue officer at Blurb, a groundbreaking leader in unleashing creative expression through self-published books.