Last week, representatives from every public higher education institution in West Virginia signed a Momentum Year commitment document pledging to increase college completion rates. West Virginia needs to significantly increase degree completion in order to keep up with workforce demands. In fact, the West Virginia Department of Commerce estimates that by 2020, 51 percent of all new jobs will require an associates degree or higher. Currently, 30 percent of all West Virginians hold some form of post-secondary credential; well below the national average of 46 percent. By signing on to the CCA Momentum Year, West Virginia is beginning the path to “Double the Degrees” by 2025.

West Virginia already has a number of student success initiatives under way: taking co-requisite to scale has increased pass rates for college-level math and English. In the latest annual Report Card report for the four-year system, the percentage of students needing remediation and passing college-level math within the first two years of enrollment has increased 12.1 percent, while college-level pass rates for English have increased 25.6 percent. The Fifteen to Finish initiative has increased the number of students taking 15 credit hours or more in a semester by 7 percent. Most significantly, degree and certificate completion has increased 23 percent since 2010.

It’s very important that we commit to student success. We have a large number of first-generation college students. Making a formal commitment for their success to degree completion is good policy for them and for West Virginia.

By joining the Momentum Year Alliance, the state public institutions have committed to work together to develop and implement Momentum (GPS) pathways with the purpose of dramatically increasing the number and percentage of students who earn a post-secondary credentials. The leadership gathering was a great start to that commitment. Teams are now being formed on each campus to work with CCA at the state planning meeting set for September.