Dhanfu E. Elston, Ph.D.

Vice President of Strategy

Complete College America

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at Complete College America

Dhanfu E. Elston, Ph.D.

Vice President of Strategy

Complete College America

Dr. Dhanfu E. Elston (pronounced: dah-nee-foo) serves as Complete College America’s Vice President of Strategy where he utilizes his campus expertise for practical application, implementation, and scaling of CCA strategies at institutions throughout the nation. He provides oversight of the national 15 To Finish strategy, Purpose First career choice grant, technology Seal of Approval, and scaling standards to close achievement gaps. Previously, he coordinated relationships with Governor’s Offices and higher education state-wide systems in their college completion efforts.. Recently, he launched a national initiative with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to amplify completion efforts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Over two decades of his higher education career in academic and student affairs, Elston has created and implemented comprehensive success and retention programs that have garnered national attention. He has been recognized as an expert in college completion policy initiatives at institutions that educate highly diverse and underrepresented student populations.

Prior to his current role with CCA, Dr. Elston held the position of Executive Director of Student Success and Transition at Purdue University Calumet. Under Elston’s leadership, Purdue Calumet (now Purdue Northwest) experienced exponential gains in first-year retention, graduation rates, and enrolled credit hours. In addition, enhancements made to campus-wide academic advisement processes led to the receipt of the Education Advisory Board’s inaugural Data-Driven Impact Award for utilization of predictive analytics.

Elston has also served Georgia State University, which is nationally recognized as a model for collegiate academic success, as the Assistant Director for Undergraduate Studies. Earlier in his career, he held positions in Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Georgia State and Clark Atlanta University where he led Greek Life, student activities, and leadership development functional areas. During his tenure at each institution, Dr. Elston held faculty appointments and was responsible for teaching and the development of first-year experience course curricula.

Dr. Elston earned a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from Georgia State University where he conducted research in student retention, intercultural relations, learning communities, leadership development, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He earned both an M.A. in Educational Leadership and B.S. in Biology from Clark Atlanta University.

Elston is a member of and has held leadership roles in numerous professional associations, including NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (past Chairperson of the African American Knowledge Community), Association of Fraternal & Leadership Values (Board Member), National Academic Advising Association, LeaderShape, Inc., American Educational Research Association, Golden Key International Honour Society, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. He is a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

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15 to Finish

Boost the number of students who are on track for on-time graduation by encouraging enrollment in 15 credits each semester (30 credits per year, including summers). Financial aid dollars, as well as institutional process and practice, should support that standard.

Math Pathways

Ensure all students enroll in and complete gateway math in their first year by designing math courses that are aligned with the skills students need for their chosen program of study.

Corequisite Support

Increase gateway course completion within the first year by enrolling entering students into the college-level math and English courses, providing those who need additional help a concurrent course or lab that offers just-in-time academic support.

Momentum Year

Build momentum so students meet first-year benchmarks: informed choice of meta major or major, enrollment in 30 credits with nine in the program of study and completion of gateway courses. Provide early support and guidance for decision making, using interest assessments and labor-market data.

Academic Maps with Proactive Advising

Default students onto highly-structured academic maps that include 15 credits per semester (or 30 per year), indicate milestone and pre-requisite courses, and empower advisors to effectively monitor progress and provide intervention as needed.

A Better Deal for Returning Adults

Increase degree attainment by inviting adult learners back to complete their education, providing a redesigned system that offers accelerated courses, year-round enrollment and predictable schedules. Give credit for prior learning and experience and additional support to help students navigate the system.

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