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Momentum Year

Build early momentum so students meet key, first-year benchmarks: informed choice of a meta major or major, enrollment in 30 credits, completion of nine credits in the program of study and completion of gateway math and English requirements. Provide early support and guidance that empower decision making, including the use of interest assessments and labor-market data.

Overview

Introduction

We’ve long known that the first year is extremely important for student success, retention and completion. But as the research grows, important new metrics are being revealed and showing a clear way forward to boost graduation rates and close achievement gaps. Making early choices about a meta major or major, enrolling in 30 credits (including completion of nine credits within the program of study), and completing gateway math and English requirements in the first year ensures students start with the momentum needed to launch into their academic journey and ultimately earn their credentials.

Know the Problem

Too few students start college with momentum — they delay selecting a program, take too few credits in their first year, and put off critical math and English gateway courses. Research proves that each of these choices dramatically reduces the likelihood that students will ever graduate. These challenges are worsened when colleges and universities fail to provide structure and advising systems that drive student momentum toward a degree.

Two-Year

Four-Year All Other

Four-Year Highest Research

African American

Hispanic

Pell

Asian

White


DSData Suppressed

NANot Applicable

DUData Unavailable

Two-Year

Four-Year All Other

Four-Year Highest Research

Two-Year

Four-Year All Other

Four-Year Highest Research

Two-Year

Four-Year All Other

Four-Year Highest Research

African American

Hispanic

Pell

Asian

White


DSData Suppressed

NANot Applicable

DUData Unavailable

Two-Year

Four-Year All Other

Four-Year Highest Research

Two-Year

Four-Year All Other

Four-Year Highest Research

Take Action

Design students’ first-year experience as a Momentum Year. Provide information that allows students to make stronger decisions about their programs of study, ensure academic maps require the completion of 30 credits in the first year, along with completion of nine credits within the program of study, and insist students complete college-level math and English on the front end, rather than delaying the courses. Institutional policy and practice should reinforce these early benchmarks for success.

  • Purpose First

    Purpose First

    Early decisions matter. Provide students opportunities to evaluate their interests and explore career options, using labor-market data to reveal trends and possibilities. Offer meta majors – broad buckets of similar academic programs which narrow into specific majors – to avoid unnecessary wandering through the course catalogue. [Learn more about Purpose First]

  • 30 Credits in the First Year

    30 Credits in the First Year

    The only way to graduate on time is to take 30 credits per year (including summers), and the data shows that doing so increases students’ academic performance, retention rates and ultimate likelihood of graduating. Not to mention, graduating on time saves students and their families precious time and money. [Learn more at 15 to Finish]

  • 9 Credits in the Program of Study

    9 Credits in the Program of Study

    Starting strong makes a big difference for students. A growing body of research suggests that students who have early program momentum, meaning they take nine credits in their meta major or major within the first year, are more likely to graduate or successfully transfer than peers who enter programs on slower timelines. [Learn more about the value of Momentum]

  • Gateway Course Completion

    Gateway Course Completion

    Far too often, students delay gateway math and English courses, holding up their academic progress and decreasing their likelihood of success. Students should be pushed to complete these courses in year one, providing them early momentum and tapping into a research-proven strategy to boost persistence and student success. [Learn more about gateway course completion]

Implementation Guide

Commit

When students start strong, they are more likely to complete their degrees or credentials. Yet, despite this fact, many students wander through the course catalogue – delaying their choice of meta major or major, taking too few credits or credits that don’t count toward their degree, and putting off important math and English courses. The Momentum Year addresses each of these concerns and ensures students are launched toward completion. The resources below will provide an overview of the Momentum Year, including a deeper dive into the problem, resources for generating buy-in amongst stakeholders, and additional items that can assist in developing your action plan.

Resources

Momentum: The Academic and Economic Value of a 15-Credit First-Semester Course Load

CCRC

On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions

Strada/Gallup - More than half of U.S. adults have regrets.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Know the Problem

    Resources below provide information on the challenges presented by delayed and uninformed choices, low credit accumulation and failure to complete gateway courses; and offer solutions to help impatient reformers more effectively drive change in their states, regions or institutions.

    Resources

    The Paradox of Choice and College Success

    Discussion of behavioral economics' effect on college completion.

    Four-Year Myth

    The vast majority of college students in America do not graduate on time, but many more can.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Generate Buy In

    Key stakeholders need to see data that reveals the problem and an explanation of the structural elements at its root. Share evidence-based examples of the Momentum Year’s impact, outside evaluations of the intervention, and benefits of implementing the reform. Consider “Challenge Events,” conducted in partnership with CCA, to help make the case for reform – providing in-depth information, and challenging stakeholders to support implementation.

    Resources

    What is a Momentum Year?

    University System of Georgia/Complete College Georgia

    New England States Focus in on Student Momentum, Success and Completion

    Sample event for generating buy-in.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Create an Action Plan

    Institutional teams and task forces should gather together, representing all stakeholders associated with implementation, for a Completion Academy where they will develop one-year implementation plans for scaling the strategy. Engaging with national experts who have successfully implemented reforms will allow teams to develop strong institutional plans.

    Resources

    Houston GPS Implementation Timeline

    Sample timeline from Houston GPS's ongoing efforts to implement Game Changer strategies.

    15 to Finish Essential Practices

    Checklist of practices considered to be essential to implementing 15 To Finish.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Act

Successfully implementing the Momentum Year requires intentional planning and a constant feedback loop with stakeholders. Though important to assess and accommodate the specific needs of your institution, it is also beneficial to draw on proven best practices.

Resources

Redesigning Development Education in Colorado

Casey Sacks, Colorado Community College System

Promoting Gateway Course Success: Scaling Corequisite Academic Support

By CCA's Bruce Vandal

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Design the Strategy

    Using evidence-based models and proven best practices, implementation teams should develop their approach to the intervention, ensuring the reform is customized to meet the needs of their state and institutional partners.

    Resources

    Houston GPS Momentum Year Assessment

    Inventory of Momentum Year components to help institutions with their implementations.

    Report and Recommendations of the Task Force on Gateway Mathematics Success

    Nevada System of Higher Education

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Communicate with Stakeholders

    Effective implementation of Game Changer strategies requires communication with a broad array of internal and external stakeholders. Communication within institutions and systems should introduce plans, provide progress reports, and deliver details of implementation. Recognizing that reform is often difficult, teams should provide ample opportunities for feedback and make adjustments to the plan as necessary while maintaining fidelity to the core components of the strategy.

    Resources

    Houston GPS Action Story

    Students from Houston share their stories and highlight the important work happening as a result of Houston GPS.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Implement the Strategy

    Provide professional development and training opportunities for all stakeholders involved in implementation of the reform and stick to the timeline developed by the implementation teams. Document the implementation and provide opportunities for stakeholders to connect and problem solve throughout the execution of the strategy.

    Resources

    Houston GPS Degree Map Assessment

    Houston's evaluation of existing degree maps and actions aligning with Momentum Year efforts.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Improve

As with any initiative, it is critical that Momentum Year efforts are effectively measured and data is used proactively for improvement. Build in methods to continually improve service to students and sustain interventions through the use of policy.

Resources

Common College Completion Metrics Technical Guide

Technical Guide describing concepts and data elements.

New Rules: Detailed Policy Language

Policy language for sustaining Game Changer implementation.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Measure

    Successful implementation requires consistent evaluation of progress and outcomes against Game Changer metrics that serve as baselines. Implementation leaders should survey participating institutions to document strategies, timelines to scale and technical assistance needs. Qualitative data should also be collected from implementers and students.

    Resources

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Refine the Implementation

    Keep improving the implementation through analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, collected after each term of implementation. Identify improvements that can be deployed and identify challenges that require deeper analysis.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • Sustain the Strategy

    Implementation leaders should compile institutional implementation results and generate state reports focused on improved student outcomes. Explore the financial impact of reform, adjust organizational and budgetary policy to sustain the reform, at scale. Engage with policy makers to codify effective reforms and to fortify needed changes.

    Resources

    15 to Finish: Early Results and Lessons from Implementation

    Complete College Georgia

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Support Community

Connect with Content Experts

Below are state and institutional leaders from around the country who are leading efforts around the Momentum Year. Use the form below to ask questions and receive expert guidance for your own implementation efforts.

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What interests you?

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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