Five more states to build Student Success Centers

'Help the most students possible graduate' from community college

Five more states will receive $500,000 awards over two years to create Student Success Centers, which will focus on boosting college completion rates among community college students.

Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington join seven other states in the program, which is funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Kresge Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit organization, will help create the centers.

Community college leaders first got the idea for statewide student success centers as schools signed on for President Obama's "completion challenge."

From our experts: Meeting the completion challenge

The centers aim to increase college completion among community college students by coordinating schools around the state, providing faculty and staff a forum for collaboration and assistance, and getting academics and lawmakers on the same page about higher ed reform.

Typically, centers have their own budgets, a small staff of one or two employees, and an advisory council. They help bring grant money to the state and identify and share best practices.

By centralizing information sharing, the centers help colleges in a state "spend their resources more effectively and create reforms that help the most students possible graduate," says Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of Kresge's Education Program.

Ohio's center, one of the first five in the country, works to unify the missions of Ohio's 23 community colleges around completion, building a "state culture" of student success. The Ohio center hosts conferences for faculty members and invites guest speakers to share suggestions and host workshops.

For example, Hocking College English professor Kathy Pittman shared tips from her experience teaching developmental English to fire science students, many of whom were busy, working professionals.  Pittman found her students were more engaged when she chose readings that aligned with their professional interests (Fain, Inside Higher Ed, 10/15/2013;  "Quick Takes," Inside Higher Ed, 1/22; Market Wired/Yahoo Finance; 1/21).

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