How one community college nearly doubled its graduation rate

 

A community college in Indiana has seen results after taking steps to raise its graduation rate, reports Adina Solomon for U.S. News and World Report.

Indiana has the lowest community college graduation rate of all states, with just 8.3% of its full-time students graduating within three years or less. Ivy Tech Community College, the state's largest community college system, had a similar three-year graduation rate for students who started in 2011, Solomon reports.

Like other community colleges, the student population tends to be older than the so-called traditional student. Many of them also work full-time or part-time, come from low-income families, and have children or other family members to care for.

"Their lives are extremely complex," says Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.

To better serve and retain its students, Ivy Tech made three key changes.

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Corequisite courses: Ivy Tech now offers a corequisite option for students who are in need of developmental courses.  This allows students to complete their majors and graduate faster, instead of being held back by a course that does not count toward graduation requirements, Solomon writes.

Math Pathways: The school also started a Math Pathways program, which allows students to take the exact math course they need for their individual major. "Prior to this Math Pathway, almost every student was on an algebra-based pathway," says Steve Tincher, provost at Ivy Tech. But now, students also have the option to take a quantitative reasoning pathway.

Advisor-to-student ratio: Ivy Tech is also working to improve its advisor-to-student ratio. Because of a lack of funding, many community colleges only have one advisor for every 800 students, says David Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. Ivy Tech's goal is to bring their ratio down to one advisor for every 500 students.

The changes seem to be paying off. Ivy Tech nearly doubled its graduation rate for students who started in 2013 (Solomon, U.S. News & World Report, 5/11).


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