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


Thursday, June 4, 2015
Building High-Quality Community Colleges: The Forgotten Piece

In a recent piece for the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews opines that President Obama’s proposal for free community college – while well intentioned – falls short in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing today’s students. In addition to concerns associated with tuition and fees, Matthews lays out living expenses, working while going to school, and a failed college structure as key barriers keeping students from graduation day.

Some key excerpts:

“Community colleges provide such a disorganized mess of courses with so many dead-ends that many students never get to where they want to go.” “…the push to provide as many courses for as many students as possible has backfired.” “Regular students blunder through on their own with mostly bad results. More than 80 percent of students entering community college say they plan to graduate from a four-year school. Six years later, just 15 percent have done so.”

While this is all true, a core part of the President’s proposal does, in fact, seek to address these concerns, calling for the “building [of] high-quality community colleges.” The proposal specifically states that, “colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes” – reforms like those in place at CUNY ASAP and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology where highly-structured programs and proactive advising ensure many more students earn their degree or certificate.

The attention and dialogue around the President’s proposal – especially this often omitted element of it – provide an important opportunity to help community colleges realize their full potential and address some inherent challenges in their systems and structures. This is where the Complete College America Game Changers come in. By providing remediation as a corequisite, not a prerequisite, alongside the college-level course, we can ensure significantly more students finish their gateway courses and move into their programs of study. GPS provides the backbone of highly-structured programs by creating default pathways, clear academic maps, and implementation of intrusive advising to help students find the most direct path to graduation. Structured schedules, which provide a reliable and consistent block schedule from the beginning of the degree to the end, make it easier for students to move through and complete on time, even as they balance work and school. Finally, encouraging full-time attendance of 15 credits per term or 30 credits per year ensures that students finish their programs in a timely fashion, without additional cost. We believe in the need for more investment in higher education to give students a better chance to enter and complete.

However, it is highly structured programs and transforming systems through the Game Changers that will help more community colleges become the high-quality institutions that students need and deserve, saving students valuable time and money. After all, it is far cheaper to earn your degree in 2 or 4 years rather than in 5 or 6.

posted by Julie Johnson


Monday, March 30, 2015
Building a Culture of Timely Graduation: The Story of Purdue University Calumet

In his first post for the blog, Complete College America Vice President Dhanfu Elston, who previously served as Executive Director for Student Success and Transition at Purdue University Calumet, shares how he and his colleagues implemented CCA’s Game Changers to drastically improve the number of Purdue Calumet students who are on track for timely completion.

Since the launch of the Complete College America “Game Changer” strategies at Purdue University Calumet, the university has more than doubled the percentage of students enrolled in 15+ credits during their first semester (27% in 2012 to 66% in 2014). Fall 2014 retention for first-time, full-time students increased by 4.7 percentage points. Overall, more students are on track to complete on time, and Calumet is better positioned for long-term sustainability in student success.

Complete College America’s publication, Time is the Enemy, highlighted the critical importance of evaluating students’ progress and time to graduation. Administrators at Purdue University Calumet utilized this information to reframe conversations with students and parents and showcase the potential return on investment when we make on-time graduation a priority.

About: Purdue University Calumet (PUC) is a Carnegie-classified public master’s university, with an undergraduate enrollment of 8,600 students and a six-year graduation rate of 31%. Purdue Calumet has long supported a population of typically-underserved students, including first-generation, commuter, low socio-economic status, and racial minorities.

The Challenge: Similar to other institutions that serve large populations of underserved populations, PUC faced hurdles when encouraging students to enroll in the number of credits necessary to promote persistence and completion of a four-year college degree. We know that students struggle in attempts to balance off-campus work requirements and family commitments. These challenges, along with a lack of campus cultural competencies, are serious contributors to attrition. However, university administrators at Purdue Calumet recognized opportunities to teach students and their parent/supporters the potential for a higher return on their college investment by following established plans for graduation.

The Solution: Utilizing multiple Complete College America (CCA) “Game Changer” strategies, Purdue Calumet integrated behavioral-based interventions and institutional-level policies into plans for student retention and increased enrollment in credit hours. Below are the steps for the comprehensive institutional plan:

Step 1: In Spring 2013, consistent with the CCA Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) model and a legislative mandate from the Indiana Commission of Higher Education, Purdue Calumet created four-year degree maps (“whole programs of study”) for every academic major.

Step 2: The Game Changer strategy “Fifteen to Finish” was incorporated into a mandatory New Student Orientation that included student and parents/supporters. Clear, introductory messages were relayed via oral and written communication related to the importance of enrolling in 15 credit hours. For many of the first-generation students, they were surprised to learn that a summer semester was not punitive and could be used toward accumulating 30 credit hours per academic year. A component of the initiative that resonated was the potential return on investment for graduating on time – for example, by graduating in 4 years rather than 5, students could save thousands of dollars in tuition and fees, room and board, transportation and other expenses.

Step 3: During the registration portion of New Student Orientation, the PUC Fall 2013 incoming student cohort received the four-year degree plan for their intended major of study. A number of academic Colleges put students in block schedules of 15 credit hours. The “opt-out versus opt-in” strategy provided students flexibility in scheduling based on life and work demands; however, most students chose to stay enrolled in the 15 credit hour schedule.

Step 4: Through GPS “intrusive advising,” academic advisors reinforced the “Fifteen to Finish” messages. A comprehensive marketing campaign continued beyond New Student Orientation and throughout the academic year.

Fifteen to Finish is one of the multiple CCA strategies that have the potential to change the lives of college students and reshape the culture of student success on campuses. For administrators, faculty, and advisors at institutions that serve large populations of underrepresented students, “Fifteen to Finish” is a strategy that can be easily and quickly implemented. Most importantly, it establishes the bar for completion that can reap dividends that not only benefit students through better stewardship of existing funds, but increased credit accumulation that can stabilize college enrollments. As Vice President of CCA, I look forward to further elevating the national college completion agenda and utilizing my institutional-level experiences and knowledge of Game Changer strategies to assist States, systems, and institutions in practical implementation and scaling of existing and new initiatives.

posted by Dhanfu Elston


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