October 25, 2017

Montana Higher Education Leaders, Complete College America Launch Effort to Boost Student Success and College Completion

MISSOULA, MT — Higher education leaders in Montana will gather today alongside national experts to discuss strategies that increase student retention and graduation in the state. The event – hosted by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and Complete College America – kicks off Montana’s Momentum Pathways Project, an effort to scale evidence-based strategies that support students in their first year of college and sustain that momentum through graduation.

The event represents collaboration between the Montana University System and the newly-formed Complete College Montana Team, a group of higher education leaders who have been selected to guide college completion efforts throughout the Treasure State. In addition to leading state efforts, the team will participate in CCA’s annual convenings and summits, sharing insights with a national network of states, systems, regions and institutions and collaborating with college completion experts to accelerate their work.

Today’s event – which is being held at the University of Montana – will bring together more than 150 faculty, staff and administrators from every public postsecondary institution in Montana and will include six Tribal College presidents, high school counselors and administrators, state government officials and content experts from around the country.

Participants will hear from Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, Deputy Commissioner and CCA Fellow John Cech, and CCA President Tom Sugar. In addition, Jim Dragna of California State University, James McCoy of the College of Southern Nevada, Brian French of the University of Montana, Erik Rose of Montana State University and Chairsty Stewart of Montana State University will discuss strategies and share their insights on effective implementation.

The Momentum Pathways Project will focus on 15 to Finish, advisor training and the use of degree maps. 15 to Finish – a research-based initiative originally launched in Hawaii – encourages students to take 15 credit hours per semester or 30 per year, increasing their likelihood of success and ensuring that they graduate on time. Efforts around advisor training and degree maps will simplify the maze of academic courses and student requirements by creating easy to follow academic maps, design support services that increase success for adult learners, and create structured schedules that allow students to balance work, life, and academics.

“The Complete College Montana Summit is to be one of the most important things to happen in the history of the Montana University System,” said Deputy Commissioner John Cech. “As we gather together, representing all of public higher education in the state of Montana, we will not only highlight the great work happening in Montana, but will provide an opportunity for institutions to share best practices with one another. Everyone is committed and focused on new ideas and strategies that will boost student success and completion.”

Since 2013, Montana has been committed to working with Complete College America to increase the percentage of Montanans with a postsecondary credential. Montana has successfully executed several key components of this initiative such as creating performance based funding, expanding dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, redesigning developmental education to better serve students who enter college academically underprepared, and aligning degree requirements with relevant math coursework.

“More than any other time in our history, a college degree may be the single most important factor in providing greater access to the American Dream,” said CCA President Tom Sugar. “This effort ensures that Dream can become a reality for many more of the state’s residents, empowering students to start their college career with momentum and supporting them with proven strategies as they work toward graduation day.”

Complete College Montana Team Members

John Cech, Deputy Commissioner, Montana University System – Team Lead
Dave Gerchick, Dean, Highlands College – Implementation Lead, Two-Year Sector
Bob Mokwa, Provost, Montana State University – Implementation Lead, Four-Year Sector
Erik Rose, Program Manager, Montana University System – Metrics and Evidence Lead
Bob Hoar, Provost, MSU – Billings – Policy and Legislation Lead
Siri Smillie, Education Policy Advisor, State of Montana – Governor’s Representative
Paula Short, Director of Communications, University of Montana – Communications Lead


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