Monday, May 15, 2017
Creating New Opportunities: Transforming College Mathematics from Gatekeeper to Gateway

By Karon Klipple, Executive Director of Carnegie Math Pathways

klipple Five years of classroom data show that students enrolled in the Carnegie Math Pathways’™ two accelerated developmental math programs – Statway® and Quantway® – outperform their peers in course completion, college credit attainment, and transfer rates.

Newly released impact studies from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching show that Statway and Quantway students consistently succeed at triple and double the rate of students in traditional remedial sequences, and do so in half the time that it takes their traditionally remediated peers. And among institutions offering Carnegie Math Pathways as accelerated co-requisites, early evidence shows comparable and in some cases even higher success rates.  Pathways students are also much more likely to transfer from two-year to four-year colleges than all students enrolled in community colleges during the same period.

Developmental education was originally intended as a gateway to a college degree for students who needed more preparation for college-level work but has instead become a gatekeeper.  Nationally, about 60 percent of first-time community college freshmen are assigned to developmental math, yet only 20 percent of them successfully complete their remedial requirements and then a college-level math class within three years, according to a study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. A report released earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education found that even at our nation’s public four year universities, roughly 30% of students require remediation.

The thousands who don’t successfully complete developmental and college-level math may never achieve their college and career goals, and that comes at a huge cost. The Department of Education report estimates that students and their families pay about $1.3 billion annually for courses that don’t count toward a degree. These students are disproportionately low-income, Hispanic, black, English learners, and the first in their families to attend college.

There are a number of efforts across the country to reverse this high failure rate, but Statway and Quantway stand out because they were designed to meet rigorous learning outcomes developed in partnership with national mathematics and statistics professional societies, and because they are adaptable by colleges to meet the needs of their different student demographics and school resources, allowing the initiative to spread without losing its effectiveness.  Since beginning as a pilot program in 2011-12, Pathways has achieved and sustained high success rates even as enrollment quadrupled – enrolling more than 20,000 students over five years – and school participation has expanded to more than 60 community colleges and four-year institutions.

Simply put: these students are no longer denied an opportunity for a better life. These gains are across the board for students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as both male and female students.

Student-Centered Design

When the Carnegie Foundation took on this huge social justice issue, it assembled a working group of college math instructors, academic researchers, and administrators into a Networked Improvement Community, or NIC. Their work was guided by the principles of improvement science, an evidence-based, user-focused process.  After researching other programs and interviewing students and instructors, NIC members decided that no amount of tinkering could solve the problem; it needed an overhaul.

They designed the new courses to address specific barriers and challenges that students had with traditional developmental math: taking too long to complete (the typical remedial student is placed two levels – or courses –  below credit-bearing math), not seeing the relevance to their lives, and being taught in the same style that didn’t work for them in the past.

Statway is a two-term statistics course that integrates developmental and college level math, enabling students who complete the entire program to meet their remedial requirements and earn college math credit within one academic year.

Quantway is structured as two separate one-term classes focused on quantitative reasoning.  Quantway 1 is developmental level, and Quantway 2 is college-level.

Faculty learn new pedagogical techniques that require less lecturing and more student engagement. Classes are built around hands-on group work, which has the dual effect of allowing students to learn from each other and develop confidence in a safe environment, while also creating social bonds among students.  Lessons are written around issues that are relevant to the students’ lives.  A class session on random sampling, for example, is illustrated by determining what percentage of students would be willing to pay more for a reserved parking place.

“It helped me think about math in a different way,” said student Dagny Gallo in a video produced by the State University of New York. When Gallo enrolled in college many years after high school, she was concerned that a lifetime of math anxiety would prevent her from earning a degree, but Quantway erased that fear.  “It made sense to me as an older person, who already has life experience with credit cards and paying bills and dealing with mortgages and loans,” said Gallo, “It made me more confident in taking other math courses.”

John Kellermeier’s first reaction after being invited to participate in the NIC was, “You’re saying the things I’ve been preaching about for 20 years.”  Now retired, Kellermeier taught math at Tacoma Community College, one of the original 29 pilot schools in the Statway NIC.  It was quickly successful, and Kellermeier and his colleagues reasoned that if students did so well in a two-term Statway, one-term might be even better, especially for specific groups: low-income students who needed to get through school as quickly and inexpensively as possible; and older, returning students with full-time jobs, and children, and limited time for school.

A one-term course has other benefits. It eliminates the transition point between Statway 1 and Statway 2, where some students tend to drop out, even if they passed the first half.  The appeal, explained Kellermeier, is “bust your butt for a quarter and you’re done.” Tacoma now offers two sections of single-term Statway each quarter, including a night class.

Tacoma Community College provides a strong example of the flexibility embedded in Pathways that both allows the program to spread to many different colleges and provides a structure for experimentation.  It also illustrates the ongoing importance of the NIC as a foundation for continuing to exchange knowledge and learn together through innovation. Other colleges are now also experimenting with accelerated and co-requisite versions of Statway and Quantway, in which students take both sections during the same semester and receive additional academic support.  Early indications from another college that has implemented only single-term Statway is that students outperform their peers in regular remediated courses and are doing just as well as students in traditional two-term Statway at other colleges.

Enduring Benefits

Single-term programs are still being evaluated, but the one-year Pathways program now has five years of data on thousands of students. On average, 49 percent of Statway students complete the pathway and earn college level credit in a single academic year with a grade of C or better, while only 16 percent of students in the traditional sequence complete their developmental math requirements and earn college level credit after two years.  That’s three times as effective in half the time.

The success often has immediate results. In the year after completing Statway, students accumulate 7.81 college-level credits compared to 5.17 credits among comparable non-Statway students – about the equivalent of one 3-unit course. Forty-three percent of Statway students also transfer from two-year to four-year colleges within four or five years of starting, compared to 32 percent (within six years of starting) of community college students at large.

Quantway 1 students have roughly twice the success in half the time as their peers in traditional developmental math: 64 percent pass Quantway 1 in a single term (semester or quarter) compared to 37 percent of non-Quantway remedial students in an entire year. Of the students who succeeded in Quantway 1 and enrolled in Quantway 2, 67 percent passed with a grade or C or better and earned college math credit.

For students who often describe themselves as not having the “math gene,” these accomplishments open new possibilities, such as higher degrees: 46 percent of Quantway students transfer from two-year to four-year colleges within four or five years of starting school, while nationally, 32 percent of all community college students transfer within six years. Quantway students also earn associate degrees or other two-year credentials at a rate of 26 percent compared to 18 percent for all other students at their respective colleges.

Many students are already convinced of Pathways’ effectiveness. During a panel at last July’s Carnegie Math Pathways Forum in San Francisco, one of Kellermeier’s former students put it bluntly. Marco Antonio Flores Garcia had one question for colleges that are hesitant to put Pathways to the test. “Do you really want to help your students?” he asked. “This is the program; it has numbers; their numbers are not going down; their numbers are going up. So, if you guys are all about helping your students, then this is it; this is what you guys have to do.”

posted by CCA


Thursday, May 11, 2017
The Origin Story of Houston GPS

By Dr. Paula Myrick Short, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs – University of Houston System; Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost – University of Houston

Paula ShortIt was over a cup of coffee in Indianapolis that I told Tom Sugar about my new position as Provost at the University of Houston. I was attending one of the Complete College America Academies, and we had just taken a break. Tom and I discussed CCA’s mission, and I invited him to visit Houston to think big with me. He agreed.

During his visit three years ago, a large group of representatives gathered to discuss for the first time a bold, new vision for higher education across the entire Houston area.

Teams from public community colleges in Houston, along with representatives from the UH campuses, started digging into the tough data on Houston college students.

The numbers revealed that – like pretty much everywhere else in America – higher education in Houston takes too long to complete. Very few students graduate on time. It costs too much, and students graduate with too many excess credits. And, finally, too few students ever actually graduate, especially minority, low-income, and first-generation students.

Houston’s numbers are no different than other large metro areas in the country, where – on average – not even half of students get 4-year degrees within 6 years or at community colleges where they struggle to reach just double-digit graduation rates within 3 years.

Unlike many other institutions, though, the leaders that gathered that day in 2014 were ready to own their results, not hide them.

We discussed the many challenges that lay before our students – the barriers to their completion. We talked about how College Algebra had turned into a killer of college dreams; we discussed traditional remediation as higher education’s bridge to nowhere; and most importantly, we set out to find solutions.

We brought in Larry Abele, the former provost of Florida State University, who showed us how he hit historic graduation rates at Florida State University. He did this by using highly structured degree maps with milestone courses and, most importantly, wiped away achievement gaps, allowing African Americans and Hispanic students to graduate at the same rates as white students.

We heard insights on Corequisite Remediation: full-credit, college-level courses that keep students moving at full speed while providing them the needed extra support.

And we talked about the successes many of our institutions were already seeing through similar strategies.

Following the meeting that afternoon, Complete College America released a draft Memorandum of Understanding, unprecedented in its scope and unmatched in its ambition, for the consideration of the leadership teams and faculty.

In it, institutions were asked to do the following:

  • Make sure students take the right math that is relevant and connected to their dreams,
  • Give them the help they need inside college courses because our best intentions are failing them,
  • Make sure they take enough credits each year to graduate on time because time is money and college must be more affordable,
  • Structure schedules to make them more predictable from semester to semester because balancing work and school is exhausting, often causing full-time enrollment to degrade to first part-time and then to no time at all,
  • And build clear, direct pathways of courses – and automatically register students on them – because too many are overwhelmed with choices and aimlessly wander the course catalog before disappearing all together. Students trust the expertise of faculty and advisors and want that expertise in making course decisions.


I was all in.

And a few months later, after consultations on our campuses and through some slight negotiations with us, our presidents and chancellors committed our institutions to this historic vision as well. Houston GPS was born.

Today, our work continues. All of the original partners remain committed to our work, and we’ve now added Texas Southern University to our ranks.

We’re working every day to ensure the best possible education for Houston students, and we’re confident Houston GPS will deliver.

posted by Blake Johnson


Monday, May 1, 2017
Five #15toFinish Websites to Inspire Your Campaign

It seems like every day the staff here at Complete College America learns of another institution that is launching (or preparing to launch) a 15 to Finish initiative for their students. Higher education leaders, academic advisors, and even community groups are bought in, sharing important info about what it takes to graduate on time and the sometimes unknown economic implications of choosing to stay on campus longer.

We know momentum is building around this effort: more than 30 states now have 15 to Finish campaigns happening within their borders; CCA is working with eight states in 2017 on scaled implementation of the strategy; and partner organizations are adding to the evidence on the power of full-time enrollment.

As you’re thinking about launching your own campaign, we thought we’d share some of the great websites (and associated resources) that states and institutions are using to spread the word to their students:

The University of Akron

When it comes to innovative approaches to #15toFinish, we have to start with the University of Akron. Their Finish in Time campaign uses an infomercial video to make the case to students. The two characters (who happen to be employees at UA) have been with the campaign since its inception, releasing updated videos where they often up the incentives for students. Take a look:

In addition to the infomercial, Akron lays out “Three ways it pays to take 15 credit hours or more per semester:” money saved during semesters, money saved by avoiding extra years in college, and the salary lost from extra years in college. Each category includes a chart showing actual dollar amounts to better conceptualize the savings of on-time graduation. The website also gives other ways to ensure timely graduation, including links to summer courses and the university’s Express to Success program, which are recommended for students with prior work or military experience.




The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s effort, Finish in 4, outlines the financial benefits of taking 15 credits per semester for both bachelor’s and associate degrees. Visuals include a video about the importance of advising and a timeline that represents how much money students lose for each extra year in college. Students are also given action steps to review with their advisors, including creating an academic map for each year and ensuring that required courses are taken early.

Mississippi’s broader website, Rise Up MS, provides a wide range of additional planning tools – from college application information and financial aid resources to a customized Finish in 4 game that helps students better understand the initiative and internalize the principles.



Indiana’s statewide 15 to Finish effort includes a brief video to inspire students to finish on time, pointing to the savings associated with timely completion and the quicker entry into careers. The site also walks students through strategies, in addition to credit accumulation, that help decrease time to degree, including choosing the right major, taking summer courses when needed, or earning college credits at other institutions to ensure a strong start.

As part of the site, students can also view resources about transferring credits between institutions, finding the right college, and returning to school as an adult.


Complete College Georgia, an initiative of the University System of Georgia, launched its 15 to Finish campaign as part of a broader initiative to boost college completion rates. The student-facing site makes the case for 15 to Finish with a variety of studies, statistics and links to data reports. Like many of the other campaign sites, the long-scroll design walks students through an easy-to-understand story of why taking 15 credits matters and identifies ways to make it happen in their own academic journey.

Georgia also provides campus profiles showing institution-specific savings and progress on the campaign.



University of Missouri-Kansas City

University of Missouri-Kansas City, like many of our other examples, shares the facts about 15 to Finish, but they go a step further and highlight students speaking to the importance of the strategy. After hearing from their peers, students can take action by using listed resources such as online adviser appointment scheduler, major maps and financial aid information. UMKC also urges families to stay involved, giving targeted information so parents (and other members of support networks) can give strong advice and encouragement to their students.

In addition to the information above, CCA has pulled together a set of open-source resources for you to use. You can access everything you need to get started here.

posted by Blake Johnson


Thursday, April 27, 2017
A Developmental Education Overhaul in Texas

By Texas State Representative Helen Giddings

Helen GiddingsOne of the great inequities across this country is the preparation of our young people for higher education. Underfunded schools, unavoidable family obligations, and economic hardship have made quality college readiness nearly impossible for many students.

Remedial education, or “developmental education” as it’s called in Texas, has been the proposed solution to this systemic problem. These programs, typically offered at community colleges, are designed to confront the areas of struggle and fill in gaps in readiness, whether that be algebra or reading comprehension.

In Texas, and throughout the country, these programs have too often been well-intentioned but unsuccessful endeavors. Instead of bridges to success, they’ve been financial roadblocks. Some Texas students enroll in up to 27 hours of developmental education without earning a single college credit, spending tuition and financial aid dollars with nothing.

Along with State Representative James White, I filed HB 2223 to reverse our failed trend and overhaul our developmental education system.

Despite many unsuccessful remedial programs, the isolated areas of success share a common strategy: the corequisite system.

Under this model, students enroll simultaneously in a remedial and a gateway course of the same subject matter- quickly and efficiently confronting their shortcomings. Students receive genuine supports for their classes, without having to invest time and money before even enrolling in credit bearing courses.

The corequisite model has a track record of transformative success. In Tennessee, students completing a gateway math course went from 12.3% of enrollees to 55%. In Colorado, reforms resulted in rates improving from 31% to 64%. In Texas today, only 9 percent of students enrolled in developmental education math complete a first-level math course.

With the passage of HB 2223, Texas developmental education students will be enrolled in a system that works. They will be able to receive the supports they need without breaking the bank. The time has long past that we confront this great disparity for our underserved students. We must give them the future they need and deserve.

Helen Giddings represents District 109 which includes Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Lancaster, Wilmer, Hutchins, and portions of Glenn Heights and Oak Cliff.

posted by CCA


Tuesday, April 25, 2017
15 to Finish: From Skepticism to Scale

Two years ago, I wrote my first blog post for Complete College America, “Building A Culture of Timely Graduation: The Story of Purdue University Calumet.” CCA has, for some time, known of the power of 15 credits, modeled by the University of Hawai’i’s signature 15 to Finish campaign. We’ve showcased innovative approaches and put higher education leaders on our stages to tell their 15 to Finish stories. But even more than that, we knew this powerful strategy could be scaled across the country, and we committed to making it happen.

To this day, my approach to implementing and scaling 15 to Finish across our Alliance is most influenced by my experience as a chief retention officer at Purdue University Calumet (now Purdue Northwest) – an urban, regional campus with large populations of low-income, racial minority, and first-generation students. During my time at the institution, I had heard Hawaii’s story and seen their success with increasing on-time completion; however, I was a skeptic.

Just like so many of my campus colleagues across the country, my initial response to 15 to Finish was that this would never work for my students. But I decided to test my flawed hypothesis. As I presented to a room full of students and parents at new student orientation, I conducted a show-of-hands poll to gauge the level of commitment to on-time completion. I asked the first-year students, “How many of you plan to take more than 12 credit hours during your first semester?” To no surprise, only about one-tenth of the students raised their hand. I then followed up with the question that would forever shape my opinion of the campaign, “How many of you plan to graduate in four years?” Nearly the entire room raised their hands.

No matter the students’ backgrounds, work plans, or family obligations, the vast majority wanted to graduate on time, and they believed they would. Unfortunately, our institution – like so many others – as failing to let our students know what it takes to get there. At that moment, I knew we could do better. It was just a matter of recognizing that it wasn’t just on the students, it was on us as institutional leaders to create structures that would aid student success.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 9.27.00 AM

Over the past 9 months, we have partnered with impatient reformers, state leaders, and the academic advising community to see that important work come to fruition across our Alliance, empowering students and staff with the information needed to make better decisions about course loads and the path to graduation day. Through a series of in-state convenings and meetings, we have highlighted the core concept that “full-time” enrollment, doesn’t necessarily mean “on-time” graduation. With standard requirements of 60 credits for an associate degree and 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree, taking 15 credits per semester (30 credits per year) is the only way to ensure on-time completion.

Additionally, we have been clear that not all students will decide to pursue on-time credit accumulation; however, EVERY student should be exposed to information and an academic map that communicate the importance and value of graduating on time. The most common response from participants at CCA 15 to Finish events has been, “This makes sense. How quickly can we get started?” Key insights and learnings from members of the NACADA: The Global Advising Community led to CCA’s creation of free, open-source campaign materials and presentations that allow ease of implementation and promotion on campuses.

As a result of our efforts, 14 states are scaling and more than 200 institutions are now implementing 15 to Finish, putting thousands and thousands of students on track for on-time graduation. All in, 25 states have 15 to Finish efforts happening within them.

The most encouragement comes directly from the new wave of implementers:

Zora Mulligan


“We are seeing growing interest from our colleges and universities about the 15 to Finish initiative as one way we can increase degree completion and help keep college affordable for Missouri families. The 15 to Finish message resonates with students and parents and helps admissions counselors and academic and financial aid advisors underscore the benefits of graduating on time.”

– Commissioner Zora Mulligan, Missouri Department of Higher Education


Commissioner's Headshot


“The 15 to Finish initiative, referred to as “Think 30″in our state, has brought timely completion to the forefront of the post-secondary education discourse in Louisiana. This initiative provides a framework that has served to inform best practices and policies regarding the importance of timely completion and its potential impact on the postsecondary community — and most importantly, our students.”

– Commissioner Joseph Rallo, Louisiana Board of Regents


Scrolling through the #15toFinish hashtag on Twitter and seeing the campaign being implemented in advising offices (or listening to my 8-year-old son ask his college-aged babysitter if she is enrolled in 15 credit hours) tells us that we are well on our way to creating true guided pathways for students and their families. We can definitely feel, see, and track the momentum. The culture of on-time graduation is becoming the norm across the country. Our students and country demand it, and CCA will continue to deliver it.

posted by Dhanfu Elston


Monday, March 27, 2017
Corequisite Remediation Going Coast to Coast

Five years ago, Complete College America made the case that traditional remediation is higher education’s Bridge to Nowhere. In the years that followed, we’ve worked with some of the nation’s leading reformers to chart a better path forward through Corequisite Remediation. Today, not only are we seeing big results from the states, but momentum around adoption of Corequisite Remediation and Math Pathways is reaching its greatest heights yet.

Two of the nation’s largest and most respected higher education systems have now committed to scaling Corequisite Remediation and Math Pathways for their students. A recent story in the New York Times reported that the City University of New York (CUNY) would be moving aggressively to implement the reforms by 2018. Meanwhile, the California State University Board of Trustees announced a new policy to end the practice of prerequisite remediation at all of their campuses and move to corequisite support as the strategy for meeting the needs for their students, also by 2018. Collectively, these two systems serve over 700,000 students annually.

Both CUNY and the California State System have long traditions of being bellwethers of reform on issues of college readiness and remedial education. CUNY sparked the remedial education reform movement in the 1990s, and the California State system planted seeds for the development of the K-16 movement in the early 2000s through their efforts to create greater curricular alignment between K-12 and higher education.

Both systems cite the outstanding results achieved by Tennessee, West Virginia and other states featured in CCA’s Spanning the Divide report. And both systems acknowledge Complete College America’s efforts to make the case for Corequisite Remediation and to support state and system implementations as critical to their decisions to take these strategies to scale.

In addition to the work underway at CUNY and the California State System, CCA is working in 12 other states to promote the scaling of Corequisite Remediation. Each of the states involved in the Corequisite at Scale Initiative have committed to scaling the strategy by 2018.

The results of these collective reforms will result in tens of thousands of students – students who would otherwise never make it to and through a gateway course – completing gateway courses within a single semester.

Corequisite Remediation and Math Pathways are both critical to building student momentum into and through programs of study, especially as it relates the first academic year. With research proving that students are far more likely to earn their degree when they complete gateway math and English courses and earn 30 credits in their first year (including nine credits in their program), it’s clear that our Game Changer strategies are fueling big changes and big gains throughout the country.

We’re doing important work together, and the college completion movement is growing stronger.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Rhode Island Governor Thinking Big About College Completion and Affordability

We’ve all seen the statistics: 42 million Americans now carry student loan debt, a daunting economic anchor that totals 1.3 trillion dollars for borrowers. And here in Rhode Island, students graduate with more than $35,000 on average in student loan debt – the second highest amount in the country.

It is a crisis we must address, but as Complete College America has asserted on many occasions, affordability initiatives must go further than simply providing tuition-free college; efforts must instead be designed to ensure students actually complete their degrees and enter the workforce. In other words, scholarship programs must be built for completion.

Fortunately for Rhode Islanders, Governor Raimondo is thinking big about how to address these challenges, providing leadership that is focused not just on affordability, but also on her goals of “radically increasing the number of college graduates in the state” and ensuring residents have the opportunity to compete in a 21st Century economy.

“Rhode Island may be our nation’s smallest state, but Governor Raimondo is setting a big example for leaders around the nation.”

Unlike many other free-college proposals, Governor Raimondo’s plan, which would cover the cost of a two-year degree or half the cost of a four-year degree, includes eligibility requirements that illustrate an uncommon and outsized understanding of what it will take for Rhode Island to produce more graduates and reduce costs in the process. Simply put, this plan may be the best we’ve seen.

The fact is that far too few students, even those considered full time, take the number of credits needed each year to graduate on time. The result: community college students in Rhode Island take an average of four years to earn their two-year degree, and students at four-year institutions often take an extra semester. That extra time on campus means thousands of dollars more in tuition and fees, room and board, debt, and foregone wages. And that’s just for the students who make it to graduation day; many will drop out, racking up debt without the benefits of obtaining a college degree.

Under Governor Raimondo’s plan, student success and completion are the priority. Four-year students would be required to complete 60 credits by the end of their sophomore year in order to receive the tuition waiver – a smart move considering research shows that students who take at least 30 credits per year have higher GPAs, better retention rates, and an increased likelihood of completing their degrees.

Four-year students would also be required to declare a major prior to eligibility in the program. We know that the more credits students take within their program of study, and the earlier they do so, the more momentum they have heading toward graduation. Rather than meandering through coursework and racking up excess credits, students would be incentivized to get on track, stay on track, and ultimately graduate.

For community college students, eligibility would also require full-time attendance, and data from around the country makes clear why: part-time students are far less likely to complete their degrees, even when given double the time to do so. If Rhode Island wants more graduates, more students need to attend full time.

Let’s be clear, though: students aren’t the only ones who need to change their behavior. Institutions must also take steps to ensure on-time completion is the norm and not the exception on their campuses. They can do this by changing the way they deliver remedial education, providing clear and timely academic pathways that lead to a degree, structuring schedules so that students can go full-time even if they are balancing a family and work with school, and giving students the support and guidance needed to reach their goals. Accordingly, any additional tax dollars provided to institutions for implementation of this plan must be tied to real changes like these that are proven to produce more graduates.

Rhode Island may be our nation’s smallest state, but Governor Raimondo is setting a big example for leaders around the nation. More important, she is providing Rhode Island taxpayers more bang for their hard-earned buck: college educations that are more affordable and more likely.

posted by Tom Sugar


Thursday, March 2, 2017
Math Pathways Work Reaches Major Milestone

State higher education and math faculty leaders from six trailblazing states came together in Denver this week to share early results from Complete College America and Charles Dana Center’s Building Math Pathways into Programs of Study (BMPPS) Initiative, funded by the Lumina Foundation. Representatives from Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio showcased statewide efforts to end the practice of referring most students, regardless of their chosen programs of study, into College Algebra courses that are designed primarily to support students pursuing college programs that require Calculus, such as those in STEM fields.

At far too many colleges across the country, students who have no intention of entering programs that require Calculus are either placed into College Algebra or remedial course sequences intended to prepare students for College Algebra. Too few of these students complete the courses, which in turn negatively impacts their prospects for completing a degree.

The six states involved in the BMPPS initiative have designed new gateway math pathways that enable students pursuing non-STEM programs to enroll in rigorous and transferable math courses with instruction and content that is more relevant to their chosen program of study. Several institutions have begun to create pathways and expect to see significant improvements in their gateway math completion rates.

In addition, states are designing advising systems to assist students in better aligning their choice of a gateway math course with their chosen program of study, revising program requirements to align to the new pathways, and implementing Corequisite Remediation to enable students in need of additional academic support to receive it while enrolled in college-level gateway math courses.

All of the state initiatives are the result of a groundswell of support from math faculty leaders who have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the low success rates of students in gateway math courses and the negative impact it has had on students attitudes about and understanding of mathematics, not to mention their college success rates. In all cases, math faculty leaders from across these states came together to develop a set of recommendations on the role of mathematics in undergraduate education and the design of new math pathways that will ensure all college graduates have the quantitative skills needed to be productive workers and citizens.

All six states have or are in the process of developing learning outcomes and fully transferable courses in their new math pathways.

Some of the other major accomplishments in states include:

  • Nevada institutions have implemented plans and benchmarks for dramatically increasing the number and percent of new entering students who enroll in and complete gateway math courses in their first academic year. Early results are showing significant increases in enrollments in math courses at all of the state’s colleges and universities.
  • Ohio has designed a new Quantitative Reasoning pathway that will result in new quantitative reasoning courses for students in non-STEM majors. They are now providing intensive professional development for faculty on these courses.
  • Montana and Missouri are designing corequisite models for their new math pathway courses. Montana is fully committed to scaling corequisite support in both College Algebra and their newly-aligned Quantitative Reasoning course beginning in Fall 2018.
  • Colorado has created “Degrees of Designation” for high-enrollment programs in the social sciences and humanities where the math requirements for those programs are the same for virtually all institutions offering those programs in the state.
  • Indiana has created a new, transferable quantitative reasoning course and included it in their state transfer library. In addition, Indiana has designed new meta-majors that will be critical to guiding students into appropriate math courses based on their chosen program of study.


Next steps for the initiative will be to collect data on student outcomes as each states begins to scale their pathways. Preliminary findings from a handful of early adopting institutions will be available this summer. In addition, CCA will continue to work with states to fully support implementation at scale.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Thursday, February 9, 2017
Opening Doors

This Monday morning at 10:00 a.m., as several of us rushed to fill our coffee mugs before our weekly staff meeting, we noticed that the door to our office was standing wide open. I had been the last one in, but I was certain I had shut the door behind me. “It must have been a ghost” I joked.

We wouldn’t find out until two hours later, but at that precise moment, our president and founder Stan Jones breathed his last breath.

It is tempting for me to construe this as a supernatural occurrence, that Stan himself opened that door. Certainly, if anyone were to take a detour en route to the afterlife to check in at the office, it was Stan Jones. His work was an extension of himself and he never deviated his focus from it, even as he battled a cruel illness that robbed him of his energy, then his speech, and eventually his life. I find comfort in the idea that he came back for one last strategy session, one last opportunity to smirk and roll his eyes at a dumb idea or a bad joke, one last time to tell a story we’ve heard before but wanted to hear again, one last vigorous debate with his old friend Tom.

But realistically, I probably just didn’t latch the door properly. So I make sense of this moment – a door unexpectedly open at 10:00 am this Monday morning – by thinking of it as a metaphor, not a mystic occurrence.

Stan Jones opened doors.

The doors of our colleges and universities in the past required a special key to get in – wealthy, well-educated parents and a well-resourced high school. Stan Jones removed the lock and threw away the key. He opened higher education’s doors to poor students, to first-generation students, to Black and Hispanic students, to immigrants, to those so often kept out by discriminatory policies and practices. In Indiana, he made tuition free for these students as long as they did their part in high school to be prepared. At least 30,000 students have graduated thanks to the 21st Century Scholars program since he created it 25 years ago.

When there weren’t enough doors to open, Stan Jones created them.

When Indiana needed more high-quality associate degrees and workforce credentials for its economy and citizens, Stan Jones built a community college system, full of open doors in the both the urban centers and rural pockets of the state. Ivy Tech Community College now serves more than 170,000 students per year in 75 communities and with Stan’s urging, continues to focus more sharply on improving the graduation rates and workforce outcomes of its students.

When doors were boarded back up, Stan Jones came in with a battering ram.

An increased focus on college access meant our at-risk students could get in the door, but once inside they still faced policies and practices that essentially boarded up the door to graduation. While many rested on the laurels of increased access, Stan Jones refused to claim victory until students had college degrees in hand. Stan demanded that higher education do more than just tinker with marginal change. He insisted that the entire game change.

But he was also clear on how to do it, because in Stan’s words, “people need things to be concrete and specific.” As a result, once novel concepts – guided pathways in higher education, college students starting in college-level courses, redefining full-time as 15 credits – are now becoming commonplace in the field. True to Stan’s plan, these ideas didn’t stay within the walls of Complete College America. They became viral.

Before we knew it, the doors of higher education were more open than ever and the promise of college access began to be matched with the promise of college completion. Those countless students who benefitted will likely never know Stan’s name. But that’s okay. Stan didn’t care about their gratitude. He only cared about them.

So, did Stan Jones open the CCA office door this Monday at 10:00 a.m.? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he opened all the doors before that.

posted by Sarah Ancel


Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Stan Jones: A Game Changer (1949-2017)

Stan Jones, who transformed education in Indiana and throughout the nation as a long-time state legislator, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education, and founder and president of the national nonprofit Complete College America, passed away peacefully at his home in Indianapolis on Monday, February 6th while surrounded by family.

An engineering graduate of Purdue University, Stan began his longstanding commitment to education in 1974, when, at the age of 24, he was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives, a seat he would hold for 16 years. As a member of both the House Education and State Budget committees, he developed expertise in education and education finance, emboldening his ever-growing passion for creating opportunity for students and their families, holding accountable institutions and systems to better serve our communities, and building bridges for those far too often left behind.

In 1990, he was tapped by then-Governor of Indiana Evan Bayh to serve as a senior advisor, a post he would hold for more than five years before being appointed as Indiana’s 5th Commissioner for Higher Education.

During his more than 12-year tenure at the Commission, a time in which he served under four governors from both parties, Stan transformed the agency from a policy-maker sounding board and budget organization into a catalyst for positive change in the state. He is credited as the primary architect of several landmark education policy initiatives, including the 21st Century Scholars program, an early promise scholarship aimed at increasing the number of low-income students attending and completing a postsecondary education. Additionally, he was instrumental in the creation of the state’s community college system; Indiana’s Education Roundtable; the deployment of outcomes-based funding; and the implementation of Core 40, a college prep curriculum that has contributed to significant increases in high school seniors going to college.

In 2009, following three decades of advocacy and reform in the state of Indiana, Stan founded Complete College America in order to build a network of states committed to substantially increasing the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential. Under his leadership, the organization grew to 42 member states and institutional consortia and advanced an ambitious agenda to revolutionize the nation’s higher education systems and close attainment gaps for underrepresented populations.

Whenever urging forward those around him, Stan would often famously say, “change at the margins will only produce marginal change.” Those words could never be used to describe Stan Jones – a leader, husband, father and man who made a significant difference for the betterment of Indiana and our country.

A visitation will be held from 2:00 – 8:00 p.m. on Friday, February 10, 2017, at Daniel F. O’Riley Funeral Home, 6107 S. East Street, Indianapolis, IN 46227.  Funeral will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at St. Roch Catholic Church, 3600 S. Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, IN 46227. Burial to follow at Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis.

For those inclined, the family suggests contributions to Complete College America for the Stan Jones Memorial Scholarship, supporting 21st Century Scholars. Donations can be made at or mailed to Complete College America, 429 East Vermont Street, Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46202.

posted by Blake Johnson


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