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Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the June/July edition of the Community College Journal, published by the American Association of Community Colleges.
We spend so much of our time recruiting students that it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important — ensuring that our students finish what they start.
The staff at Florida’s St. Petersburg College (SPC) has heard me say many times that access to education changes perceptions, but degrees and certificates change lives. Good, sound research tells us that a college credential improves a person’s earning potential, decreases the chance of unemployment, and enhances overall quality of life.
In fall 2012, our institution undertook what we hoped would be a game-changing initiative for our students called the College Experience: Student Success. Our goal was simple: Give our students the support they need to earn the degree or certificate that would change their lives.
We faced significant challenges, similar to those many of our fellow communitycolleges share:
Law is president of St. Petersburg College in Florida.
Eighteen months into this effort, I couldn’t be prouder of what our students, faculty and staff have accomplished together by being intensely focused on our goals and working together across the organization to analyze what works while making continuous adjustments for improvement. particularly African-American and Hispanic males.
Our job isn’t done. We continue to build on the initial foundation. Constant analysis and focus are critical. Every Wednesday morning for 30 minutes, key administrators, frontline staff, faculty and other personnel from across the college meet to analyze data on the College Experience program so that we can continue to hone our support for student success and get more of our students to the finish line.
Below are five key strategies to improve student retention and success based on our experience. With any luck, these strategies will work for you, too.
Expanded out-of-class support
This is perhaps our most important effort involved expanding our out-of-class academic support. Our goal was to improve the course success rate without lowering academic standards.
What we did:
What we found:
Integrated career and academic advising
We know that students are more successful if they have a distinct academic or career goal in mind. We concentrated on helping students identify career choices as early as possible so they could follow the proper academic paths to reach their goals.
Improved new student orientation
We were concerned that many of our first-time college students — especially those who were not collegeready in some academic areas — needed more information, resources and tools than they were getting in our online orientation.
Set up early alert system and student coaching
By the midpoint of the semester, it may be too late to help a struggling student recover. We wanted to be sure we could quickly get to students who needed help getting back on track.
Enhanced the My Learning Plan tool
Once students have a degree goal in mind, it’s imperative that they have a plan to get there. We wanted students to have a tool for up-to-the-minute guidance on where they stand in meeting graduation requirements. We also wanted them to have a clear visual understanding of how decisions such as dropping a class or changing majors could impact them.
What to read about the results at SPC? AACC members can read the rest of the article online.
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges