April 24, 2014
Community colleges across California saw their completion rates decrease this year because of the Great Recession’s impact on college budgets and course offerings over the last seven years. Southwestern College was no different.
The completion rate for the cohort of students beginning at Southwestern College in 2007-08 was 43.5%, which is below the state average and at the lower end of completion rates of our group of peer colleges.
There is optimism on the horizon, however. Our three-pronged effort to increase completion rates will go into full effect this summer and fall. Created by thoughtful discussion among all college stakeholders—faculty, staff and students—the three initiatives were selected because of their ability to positively affect completion and transfer.
At the top of the list is having students complete an education plan, and the college is creating an online version that will allow students to input information 24/7. The electronic education plan is being piloted this spring, with full implementation in the fall.
The education plan is a student’s roadmap to success and completion. With more than 300 degrees and certificates offered at the college, we want to ensure students are selecting the classes that will help them achieve their educational goals more quickly.
The college is also reviewing completion data for each program and certificate to find the bottlenecks that may be delaying students. So that we all have the same information, I am proposing we hold a data summit this spring. We have no way of addressing gaps and identifying solutions if we don’t all review the data.
It was in reviewing the data in math achievement that we created the summer boot camp to help incoming freshmen refresh their math skills before taking Southwestern College placement exams—the third prong of our efforts. This concentrated review has already begun to earn dividends. The percentage of students testing below transfer level math and completing a college-level course in six years increased significantly from 19.2% last year to 24.7% this year.
Troubling about this year’s scorecard, however, is the decrease in areas for both those who come to Southwestern College prepared and unprepared for college-level work. Those who enroll in three consecutive terms (persistence on the scorecard) saw decreases for prepared and unprepared students.
The Student Success Agenda is very important to me and the Governing Board. In November, the Governing Board created a policy agenda that included 16 items that would help guide our decisions, actions and programs. Next Wednesday, we’ll have a chance to update the board on the status of our initiatives.
We will all need to be pulling in the same direction if we expect to come close to the stretch goal of 58% completion rate by 2015.
To see the full scorecard for Southwestern College, click here