Yolanda Watson Spiva, Ph.D.

President

Complete College America

Yolanda Watson Spiva, Ph.D.

President

Complete College America

Dr. Watson Spiva’s over 25-year career in postsecondary education spans a range of executive leadership, general management, federal government, public affairs, operations and academic officer positions. Dr. Spiva serves as the President of Complete College America (CCA). Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, CCA is a bold national advocate for dramatically increasing college completion rates and closing equity gaps by working with states, systems, institutions, and partners to scale highly effective structural reforms and promote policies that improve student success. CCA has become a national leader in the movement to dramatically increase the percentage of individuals earning a postsecondary credential. Complete College America is organized as an Alliance of 47 (and growing) states, territories, and higher education consortia where executives have committed to ambitious goals of increasing college completion rates, tracking progress toward their goals and implementing a set of evidence-based practices or “Game Changers” that have proven to dramatically increase college completion rates.

Dr. Spiva is the former President & CEO of College Success Foundation (CSF), a national non-profit college readiness, access, success, and scholarship organization headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, which serves nearly 12,000 low-income students, annually, through an integrated system of academic, financial, social and emotional supports to help them access and complete a postsecondary education. Prior to CSF, Dr. Watson Spiva served as CEO/Executive Director of Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) Atlanta Inc., a nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA, which served as a strategic partner to the Atlanta Public School District as well as hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation to increase the number of low-income, first generation, Atlanta students of color graduating from high school and college. Prior to Project GRAD, she was assistant dean at Trinity College in Washington, DC. Dr. Watson Spiva has also held various positions with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC, and Atlanta, GA. in the Offices of Postsecondary Education, Student Financial Assistance, and Policy, Planning and Innovation, culminating in her service as Region IV Public Affairs Director in the southeast regional Office of the Secretary of Education.

In addition to having authored numerous research articles, Dr. Watson Spiva also coauthored the NAACP Image Award-nominated book, Daring to Educate: The Legacy of the Early Spelman College Presidents (1881-1953). She has been awarded the prestigious Turknett Leadership Character Award for outstanding leadership in the nonprofit sector. Dr. Watson Spiva earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Spelman College, her master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. in higher education from Georgia State University. She also holds a board certification as an executive coach from the Center for Credentialing Education (CCE). Yolanda is married with three children.

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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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