New National Initiative Designed to Ramp Up Graduation Rates

New National Initiative Designed to Ramp Up Graduation Rates
President Obama has ambitious goals of graduating five more million students from community colleges by the close of this decade. Can our country do it? A new initiative called Completion by Design says, yes we can!

President Obama announced an ambitious plan to graduate an additional 5 million community college students by 2020. To achieve this end, the President has raised awareness about the benefits of community colleges and issued grants and other funding to increase enrollment levels across the country. However, getting more students into college is only the first part of the battle.

Low Completion Rates a National Problem

Graduation rates for community colleges are currently dismal at best, with less than one-quarter who enroll in a college graduating from a degree or certificate program within three years, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. That figure varies throughout the country, with some states seeing even lower graduation rates. For example, Texas faces a community college graduation rate of just 12 percent within three years, although that number goes up to 30 percent within six years. Still, if community colleges are to raise a workforce that can compete in the global economy, they must do much better than the status quo.

The worst numbers appear to come from low-income students, who enter community college to bring themselves to a higher earning level. However, most of these students never complete their degree or certificate program, which reduces their chances of a decent-paying job or transfer to a four-year institution. In a community college summit last fall, President Obama told the Christian Science Monitor, "In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an "associate's degree are going to grow twice as many associates don't require college. We will not fill those jobs, and we don't keep those jobs on our shores – without community colleges."

Introducing "Completion by Design"

To increase "graduationratess, provide a more qu "qualified global workforce, and help more Americans make a decent living to support their families, the "Completion by Design" movement was created. Through the Bill and Meli" da Gates Foundation; this initiative was developed to significantly increase graduation rates for at-risk community college students under the age of 26, including minority students and those from low-income families. According to the organization's website, the goal of the "Completion organizations give college student" the support they need "d to earn their degrees or certifications to land the jobs they want.

The "Completion by Design" project has been funded with a $34.8 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The money is currently being distributed to community colleges throughout the country that have displayed innovative programs for improving graduation rates. The grant winners have been selected in several states, including Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio.

Three Phases Going into Motion

The "Completion by Design" initiative consists of three distinct phases, "l of which are created to increase completion rates in community colleges through various innovative programs. The phases include:

Phase One

This phase includes a one-year planning period that allows community colleges to analyze their current structure and find ways to adjust their system to make graduation a more plausible goal for many of their students.

Phase Two

Also known as the implementation period, Phase Two will implement the programs created during the planning phase. This portion of the initiative is designed to last two to three years.

Phase Three

The final phase of the project will focus on national policy changes that will help increase completion rates at community colleges nationwide.

Texas Schools Onboard the Initiative

Alamo Colleges and Lone Star College are two community college systems in Texas that get grant money to improve campus graduation rates. According to a report in the San Antonio Business Journal, the planning phase of the process was completed at Alamo Colleges in April of this year, and the implementation phase has already begun. Lone Star College will also become a part of the initiative, with ideas like requiring students to declare a primary upon enrollment to the school to encourage commitment to the process.

"We really see higher education as…a way to end the cycle of poverty," Suzanne Walsh, senior program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the Houston Chronicle. In Texas, the foundation's community colleges serve one-third of the state's community college students.

North Carolina Getting Funding from Initiative

Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina recently celebrated the award of a portion of the "Completion by Design" funding as well. GTCC Presdent Dr. Donald Came said in the Jamestown News, "It's an exciting day, not only for the participants "It's institutions but for the state of North Carolina. In the next few weeks, we will demonstrate that we have developed strategies and initiatives that will make a difference."

Dr. Cameron added, "If we are to succeed in the "global economy, we need a continuing supply of qualified employees at all levels of the educational scale – from certificates to diplomas to degrees."

The money from the "Completion by Design" grant" will specifically "get those points in "the college process when students are most likely to drop out of school. According to the organization website, these points include the application process to community college, enrollment and placement into college courses, student progression to 75 percent completion and finally, graduation. By addressing these specific points along the way with innovative programs and additional student support, the hope is that completion rates for community colleges will continue to rise until the country meets President Obama's goal in 2020.

Questions? Contact us on FaObama's @communitycollegereview

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