Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Scaling Coreq for Students Who Need Additional Academic Support – Chapter 3: Meeting the Needs of All Students

Corequisite Support is becoming ubiquitous in the college completion movement, and it is achieving remarkable results. A recent Executive Order in the California State University System and legislation in Texas have added to the momentum and made clear that corequisites are the preferred strategy for serving students who are in need of additional academic support in math and English. Yet, there are still those who argue this intervention will not work for all students.

I hear it often: “Corequisites may work for those close to the cut score, but not for those who test well below it.” The fact is this – corequisites can and do work for all students, regardless of how they perform on college placement exams. More importantly, there is no strategy proven to be more effective for the lowest level students.

There is a major flaw in the opposition’s argument. It assumes that placement exams accurately measure student readiness to learn college-level material, when in fact, that is far from the case. Judith Scott-Clayton from CCRC and extensive research in California have put to rest once and for all that placement exams adequately predict student success in college-level courses. (I will address this issue in more depth in Chapter 5.)

What the evidence does tell us is that students, regardless of performance on a placement exam, are far more successful in corequisites than in traditional prerequisite models. If you have been to one of my presentations, you have seen this slide from Tennessee, which shows that after scaling Corequisite Support for all students in the Tennessee Board of Regents system, community college students – regardless of performance on the ACT – were far more likely to pass a college-level math course in one year.
















Overall, corequisite students were more than four times more likely to pass college-level math courses in one year than traditional prerequisite remedial education.  Most remarkable is that students who scored below a 14 on the ACT were over 10 times more likely to complete a college-level math course in a single semester. While not as dramatic, the results in English look similar.

Detractors might argue that still over 60% of students who score at the lowest level are failing to pass college-level courses in a year. True, there are many students who are not successful – but there is no evidence that another academic support strategy would be more effective.

So what do we do about the remaining 60%? Tennessee found that the solution may have nothing to do with students’ academic readiness in a specific subject and may have much more to do with their overall college readiness.

When Tennessee looked at the student success rates in corequisites, they discovered students who passed corequisite courses and the associated college-level courses, regardless of ACT score, were successful in almost all of their college-level courses. Conversely, students who failed both their college-level course and the associated corequisite course, regardless of ACT, failed almost all of their college courses.
















At face value, this data suggests that measures of academic readiness have no predictive value for assessing ultimate college success. Further, there may be more profound issues, both intrinsic to students and institutions, that are unrelated to academic readiness yet are far more important to student success. Consequently, there is no compelling reason to deny a student access to a college course based on strict academic readiness assessments.

This data suggests that not only should Corequisite Support be available to all students who need academic support, but that corequisites should be the cornerstone of more comprehensive college completion strategies, like guided pathways.

In the next chapter, we will look at how Tennessee has been able to successfully scale Corequisite Support for all their students.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Sunday, June 18, 2017
Scaling Coreq for Students Who Need Additional Academic Support – Chapter 2: Models That Don’t Pass the Coreq Test

Traditional remediation presents a number of obstacles for student success and completion – two of which are particularly damaging. (1) Traditional remediation’s long course sequences result in significant numbers of students who never make it to the transfer-level course. (2) Traditional remediation courses do not count toward a degree. Placing students in these courses imparts a stigma on students that while they may be paying college prices, they aren’t necessarily ‘college material.

In contrast, Corequisite Support places students directly into transfer-level courses and provides additional academic support that strengthens performance in their credit-level work, effectively eliminating these two proven barriers to college completion.

Throughout the field, many have developed models that they label as Corequisites, but despite their best intentions, these approaches fail to address the central shortfalls in the traditional approach. In an effort to provide clear contrast, we’ve shared below descriptions of some of the course designs that don’t pass the Coreq Test:

Delivering Additional Academic Support in a Traditional Remedial Course

Providing additional academic support in a remedial course does not constitute Corequisite Support. Alexandra Logue and Mari Watanabe-Rose’s random sample controlled experiment found that delivering academic support in a transfer-level college course was far more effective than when it was provided in a remedial course. Academic support is crucial, but simply delivering it in traditional remediation neither eliminates the stigma of remedial education nor addresses attrition.

Co-enrollment in Two Remedial Courses

Enrolling students in two remedial courses concurrently fails to address either student attrition or the stigma of remedial education placement. These courses often pack two semesters into one, with content that is misaligned with that of the college-level math or English course. CCA has often heard claims that an institution has implemented Corequisite Support and that it didn’t work – only to reveal later that they had deployed this ineffective model.

Co-enrollment in a Traditional Remedial Course that is Not Aligned with the Transfer-level Course

In this model, students enroll in a traditional remedial course and a transfer-level course – without linking remedial instruction to transfer-level content. Simply put, the remedial course fails to fortify the student’s skills as it relates to the transfer-level course. An analysis done by Myra Snell from Los Medanos Community College, for example, found that a very small number of the topics in an intermediate algebra course are relevant to a transfer-level statistics course. Taking remedial and transfer-level courses simultaneously is not enough. Skills must be aligned, as in the Corequisite Support model, to promote student success in college-level courses.

Providing Additional Academic Support in a Non-Transferable College-Level Course

Recategorizing a remedial course into a non-transferable, college-level course with corequisite academic support may address stigmas, but not student attrition.

When the Tennessee state legislature prevented four-year colleges from offering traditional remediation courses, many colleges offered the highest-level remedial course at the college without fulfilling general education or program requirements. These courses had higher success rates, but still resulted in student attrition. When they replaced this approach with corequisites for their transfer-level courses, they found higher success rates than in the old two course college-level sequence, proving that Corequisite Support in transfer-level courses are fully scalable.

At best, the approaches described above provide marginal improvements, and at worst, they offer no improvement in transfer-level course success whatsoever. There is no reason to compromise the success of true Corequisite Support. The Coreq model has increased transfer-level course success rates to around 60 percent, up from 20 percent from traditional remediation. When implemented with fidelity, #CoreqWorks.

In Chapter 3, we’ll propose models for ending remedial courses for all students – including those who are assessed at the lowest levels of academic readiness.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Helping College Students Discover Purpose

By Paul Timmins, President-Elect of the National Career Development Association; Career Services Director at the College of Liberal Arts at University of Minnesota

paul timminsHow do we help college students develop a sense of purpose? That’s the question being addressed by Complete College America’s #PurposeFirst initiative.

In CCA’s new “Purpose First” initiative, 5 groups, representing consortia of higher ed institutions from different states (Virginia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Hawaii) or cities (Houston) are developing projects to be launched this fall to help students uncover their purpose by exploring careers earlier, understanding how majors connect with career fields, accessing labor market information, and receiving enhanced support from their institutions.

The National Career Development Association is one of four partner organizations that are working with CCA on the project, along with NACE, NACADA, and AACRAO. Last week, I traveled to Indianapolis as an NCDA representative to build connections and to share ideas on how NCDA can support each group’s projects.

As I told them, I’m especially enthusiastic to represent NCDA on this project. I think that NCDA’s focus on career development across the lifespan will be critical. Career management for college students isn’t just about the senior-year job search; it needs to include exploration and support over a much longer period of time — starting in middle and high school before students ever enroll in a college, and continuing throughout the student’s college experience. All this work requires educators to possess expertise in career development, and NCDA excels at providing training and professional development.

Moreover, I’m enthusiastic to participate in the project because it gives me the chance to share our Career Readiness work in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. We haven’t used the word “purpose” to describe our work previously, but, really that’s what we’re doing: We want to change the culture of our institution so that everyone in CLA is equipped with a common understanding of how a liberal arts education provides exceptional preparation for careers; we also want to inspire students to set ambitious goals for their futures and achieve those goals. We have career development professionals, academic advisors, our recruitment team, and our faculty all working together on one shared vision of promoting student readiness for life after graduation. We’re just getting started — but it’s been exciting to see the results that come from broadening our thinking about career support in CLA. It isn’t just the career center’s job to help students think about careers — it’s the entire college’s job.

It was a pleasure to meet with the CCA team and the representatives from each of the project teams. The groups have some ambitious plans, and I know that NCDA can support them as they are moving ahead.

posted by CCA


Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Scaling Coreq for Students Who Need Additional Academic Support – Chapter 1: What is a Corequisite Course

You’ve likely seen headlines over the past few months from Texas, California and New York announcing efforts to fully scale Corequisite Support as an alternative to traditional prerequisite remedial education. And in CCA’s Spanning the Divide report, we highlighted six states that have fully-scaled Corequisite Support for the vast majority of students in math, English or both subjects – efforts that garnered extraordinary results. With momentum building across the country and evidence of success mounting, your state, higher education system or college should be seriously considering implementation of corequisites for students who need additional academic support.

Spanning the Divide Cover


So with the evidence in and implementation in your sights, you probably have some fundamental questions on what is and is not a scaled corequisite model, and you’re looking for the best approach to dramatically increase gateway success in math and English courses. Over the next few weeks, CCA will publish a series of blog posts that provide basic information on these questions. Today, we start with the basics – what is a corequisite course?

What is a corequisite course?

Those familiar with a prerequisite course – a course students must complete before being allowed to enroll in a subsequent course – can intuitively understand the basic concept of a corequisite model for students who need additional academic support. The corequisite approach eliminates the need for prerequisite remedial courses and instead allows students to enroll directly into a transfer-level course, providing just-in-time support alongside the credit-bearing coursework. Providing academic support in this manner eliminates the all-to-common occurrence of students who enroll in prerequisite remedial courses never finding their way into transfer-level courses – an outcome proven to be the primary cause of failure of traditional pre-requisite remedial education.

The most well-known corequisite approach is the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP), which was first developed by Peter Adams at The Community College of Baltimore County. In ALP, students are co-enrolled in a transfer-level English composition course and a remedial English course – meaning students in need of additional academic support are enrolled alongside students who were assessed as college-ready in English.



Immediately following or before the transfer-level course, the students who need additional academic support meet with the transfer-level instructor in a separate remedial course, giving them additional time on task and an opportunity to address basic skills needs critical to success in the transfer-level course. As a result of the ALP model’s innovation, students in ALP complete the gateway English course at twice the rate of students who are enrolled in traditional remedial English courses.

Does Corequisite Support require students to concurrently enroll in two separate courses (one remedial and one transfer-level)?

No. There are many approaches to Corequisite Support that do not require students to enroll in a separate remedial course. Austin Peay University’s Structured Learning Assistance Program requires students in need of additional academic support in math or English to enroll in a 0-credit lab that is linked to the transfer-level course. Students spend two hours a week in a lab where they receive customized support that might include mini-lectures, small group instruction or individualized work with technology solutions. Austin Peay’s Structured Learning Assistance Program has resulted in dramatic improvements in gateway math and English course success – providing results two to three times the rates of traditional remediation.

At Boise State University, students in need of additional academic support in English enroll in English 101P for four credits, rather than the typical three credits. Like the ALP model, students in need of additional support are enrolled in the transfer-level course, but they spend extra time with an instructor to receive that support. English 101P is so successful that it has now been scaled to all Idaho postsecondary institutions.

How are students able to learn all the basic skills content for the remedial course AND the transfer-level course in the same semester? – Seems overwhelming?

They don’t. Traditional remedial sequences presume that students must demonstrate a concrete set of basic skills before entering a transfer-level course – a proposition that may even result in students working on content that is irrelevant to the transfer-level course in which they intend to eventually enroll. In contrast, Corequisite Support is focused on developing the essential skills students need to be successful in the specific transfer-level course.

For example, the skills necessary for success in a transfer-level statistics course are different than the skills needed for College Algebra. As a result, the content taught in a Corequisite Statistics model may be a subset and/or distinct set of skills from the skills taught in a sequence of elementary and intermediate algebra remedial courses. Even a College Algebra corequisite approach may find that many of the skills taught in prerequisite remedial math courses are redundant to skills that are taught in College Algebra courses. Among the many benefits, corequisites eliminate unnecessary and redundant content in the curriculum.

Hopefully this provides a basic understanding of corequisite courses, as well as some of the successful models that are being used to dramatically increase student success across the country. Please refer to the links in this post for more information on the various approaches to corequisites. In Chapter 2, we will examine models that are not corequisite remediation to create a clear dichotomy between the corequisite strategy and other forms of remediation. Questions? Tweet at me at @BruceatCCA.


posted by Bruce Vandal


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.

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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


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