White House Publishes Student Retention & Completion Progress

by Denise Portner

White House logo copyThe progress that Montgomery County Community College has made in student retention and completion as part of its participation in an elite group of thought leaders in education is documented in a 2014 report presented during a presidential summit at the White House on Dec. 4. The progress report is a follow-up on commitments made at the Jan. 16, 2014 College Opportunity Day of Action, designed to expand college opportunity for all students.

“We are proud of the progress made this year, and we’ll build on that momentum in 2015 to continue improving college access for low-income and disadvantaged students,” said Montgomery President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “Montgomery County Community College’s participation in these national conversations underscores our commitment to systematic improvements in the areas of access and completion that anchor our work as an Achieving the Dream Leader College.”

The national dialogue on college readiness began on Jan. 16, 2014 during a Summit convened by U.S. President Barack Obama. That summit saw approximately 140 leaders from higher education, philanthropic organizations, businesses and local and state governments launch a plan of action for increasing college opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students.

Through Dr. Stout’s participation in the White House Summit, the College has focused on three specific initiatives aimed at improving access for low-income and disadvantaged students. These include redesigning student entry and advising processes, developing a multi-platform model for student engagement, and expanding its minority student mentoring initiative.

All three programs are part of the College’s  Student Success Initiative, which works to expand access to higher education and increase student success through innovative process improvements and support strategies that reduce the barriers for students to complete their education. In 2011, Montgomery was designated an Achieving the Dream Leader College, an elite group of 73 community colleges across the country that have demonstrated committed leadership, use of evidence to improve programs and services, broad engagement, and systematic institutional improvement. In February, the College earned the prestigious Leah Meyer Austin Award from Achieving the Dream for its continued improvement of student access and success.

The White House published the following progress report on Montgomery County Community College’s initiatives:

Montgomery County Community College (Montgomery County, PA)

College Opportunity Commitment: Montgomery County Community College committed to help low-income students successfully complete a certificate or degree at the College. First, to improve student retention and completion, the College reviewed and then redesigned the student entry and advising process. The technology integration included four components: early alert, a self-service student appointment scheduling, student academic planning, and student/faculty dashboards that support student academic planning and advising.

Second, the College is developing “New Literacy” modules designed to support student success in three areas: financial, digital, and civic literacy. The initiative is supported through the EDUCAUSE Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC) Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI13).

The third initiative, the Minority Student Mentoring program, provides each participant with a personal mentor. College faculty, administrators, and staff volunteer are mentors that support and guide their mentee throughout their College engagement. Additionally, this cohort of students receives support from the Office of Minority Student Mentoring including personal development workshops, academic advisement, and leadership development.

Progress Made: In spring 2014, the College implemented student self-service appointment scheduling and piloted a student early alert system. The early alert system launch resulted in 93% faculty participation compared to an average 71% participation in previous semesters. As of fall 2014, the early alert system has been fully implemented, with all faculty encouraged to send student alerts as needed. Many faculty are also using the early alert system to send kudos to students.

Additionally, all new fall 2014 full-time students will be meeting with their academic advisors to develop their student educational plan. Currently, the College is working on designing dashboards that include data on educational planning, demographics, and course participation.

Over the past year, the College has developed and implemented an online resource that supports financial literacy, a social media campaign to support the Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC) and a series of 30 second information videos on various financial literacy/services topics. The online resource created, Montco Money Matters, is open source and available through Blackboard CourseSites.

In addition, in May 2014, the College was awarded an additional NGLC BMI13 grant to further develop financial, civic, and digital literacy online resources. Early results of this investment have shown a decrease in the number of students cancelled for non-payment. Finally, over the past year, students who participated in the Minority Student Mentoring program persisted at a rate higher than non-participants (73% compared to 66%) and 25 students graduated.

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