The Completion Agenda: Critical Issues for Campus Leaders

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1 The Completion Agenda: Critical Issues for Campus Leaders President Barbara Viniar will provide an overview of how her team is leading completion efforts on campus. Under pressure to improve completion, especially if that pressure includes performance based funding, it will be tempting for colleges to cut back on services to developmental students and devote their resources instead to the students most likely to succeed. It may also be tempting to compromise learning outcomes to achieve numerical success. Preserving both access and quality must be part of our planning and advocacy efforts. In a recent article in the Community College Journal, Terry O Banion noted that cynicism is the sidekick of failed promises... but that community college leaders persevere because the cause is good and the cause is right. Among our leadership challenges for the completion agenda, which comes at a time when our resources are already stretched and enrollment increases show no sign of abating, are to inspire optimism to encourage participation campus wide to keep focused on our long term goals Initial meetings have tended to dwell on what we can t do. Now our challenge is to find opportunities for meaningful change and short term successes. Kathy Barbour, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Economic Development will discuss the challenge of redesigning developmental education. Of the 70% of incoming students who require at least one developmental course, most will never complete a degree. Of the 393 first time students who enrolled in a developmental class in Fall 2007, only 14 had graduated at the end of three years. In spite of a limited data system and few faculty with training in this area, Chesapeake College must drastically improve its success rates in developmental courses in order to reach its completion goals. According to a study in December 2009 for the National Bureau of Economic Research, declines in college preparation account for almost 905 of the total drop in completion rates. Of the 120 students who began ENG 075 in Fall 07, 63 received a grade of C or better. Of those, however, only 23 eventually completed ENG 101 with a C or better. This is fairly typical of Chesapeake College students in remedial courses -- roughly a third of students fail at each level, with an overall completion rate of about 20% for English. Of the 798 students who started in developmental math in F07, 17 had graduated by spring of The college had identified a number of structural issues that may exacerbate the problem: The college does not require completion of developmental requirements for enrollment in credit courses. This may be a disincentive for students to complete developmental studies. There is no exit competency exam for reading while Accuplacer scores require placement in developmental English classes, the exit exam for those courses primarily assesses writing. The college requires students to begin developmental courses by the 7 th hour, which may discourage students interested in pursuing courses in their majors. 1

2 Financial Aid restrictions make it difficult to modularize the curriculum. The college has very few faculty who have advanced training in developmental studies The college s CMC currently makes tracking student progress difficulty. Few of the service region s high schools require Algebra II, which is the prerequisite for collegelevel math. Maryland s HAS in English does not require writing. Chesapeake College has taken a number of steps to address the challenges we have identified. Currently, we are in the process of: Redesigning ENG 075, our bottleneck course in reading & writing Testing ESOL students to determine appropriate pathway towards credit English classes Offering Advanced Reading and Writing 2 & 3 for ESOL students Participating in Twigg redesign program for Math 031 Offering an accelerated ENG 082/ENG 101 class Considering and accelerated ENG 075/ENG082 class Developing a cohort tracking system for extracting student information in Datatel. Leadership Challenges Identifying and supporting faculty champions for developmental initiatives Motivating faculty in non-developmental courses to participate in the projects Facilitating constructive discussions about the challenges and benefits of establishing developmental prerequisites Managing students and parent expectations about the challenges of under preparation Rich Midcap, Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Services, will consider the implications for staffing if we were to implement the interventions that we know work, like intrusive advising, for all students. At Chesapeake, just moving to mandatory long-term academic planning and mentoring relationships would require an estimated 200 additional staff, or nearly as many people as the college employs in all areas. What creative solutions can we develop to address workload issues? The most successful strategies to increase completion will involve making immediate connections with new students. This will include both intrusive advising and a reduction in student autonomy to ensure students are taking advantage of support services that can positively impact retention and graduation rates. Some of the strategies with the highest probability of increasing completion include: Mandatory New Student Orientation for all new students (800 per semester); Mandatory three-credit Freshman Seminar Course for all new students; Mandatory academic advising to including long-term planning for all new students; Mandatory tutoring in high-risk subjects, including developmental courses; Mandatory study halls for students with all-developmental schedules and re-admitted students; SAIL (freshman retention program) expansion to include increase of tuition stipends to $1000 for full-time and $500 for part-time students, while changing criteria to afford access to all first-time students. Review of courses available to students with developmental needs to ensure students are not registering for coursework they are unlikely to successfully complete. Note: For Chesapeake College, the cost for implementing just these strategies is estimated to exceed $1.3 million annually. 2

3 Leadership Challenges The following are the challenges that will face Student Services leadership in implementing these strategies: Prioritizing the list of strategies with the realization that the prioritization will have to be based both on likelihood the strategies will positively impact enrollment and the knowledge that highcost strategies most likely will have to wait until a more favorable budget climate. Obtaining staff buy-in that strategies selected for implementation can be implemented despite continuing concerns about staff workload. Determining carrots and sticks for programs with mandatory participation and how those carrots and sticks will be administered. Dealing with likely pushback from students (and, in some cases, their parents) regarding mandatory activities and limitation of access to credit courses for students with developmental need Douglass Gray, Vice President for Technology and Academic Support, will address the role of distance learning in improving completion. Cited at the White House Summit as a solution for students who are challenged by work issues, family issues and other significant time constraints, distance learning is far from a panacea, especially in areas without high speed internet access. In fact, in some cases it may be an impediment to student achievement. Mr. Gray will suggest ways to appropriately use distance learning to support the completion agenda. There is no question that distance learning has transformed our learning environment in the last ten years. Enrollment in online courses and programs has exploded at many community colleges, and class offerings that do not require more seats and more classrooms have certainly assisted us in meeting the sudden enrollment pressures of the Great Recession. The potential for online classes to allow truly anytime, anyplace, any pace learning is attractive both to students and educators. Does distance learning provide a solution to colleges seeking to improve completion rates? The evidence that we have suggests that the present state of distance learning is far from a panacea. Currently success rates at Chesapeake College in online courses do not match the success of students in f2f classes. If we want to improve completion, we will need to significantly improve our success in the design and delivery of online instruction and stop measuring success in distance learning as merely growth in enrollment. What are the factors which inhibit or improve success? Bad design and delivery of online instruction: - Quality Matters rubric A great tool for improving design in the online classroom - Teaching evaluations We have the capacity to more effectively evaluate online instruction than f2f instruction. - Faculty compensation It is more difficult to teach a class (well) in the online environment than in the f2f world. Student technology competency: - Many schools require a mandatory student orientation, is it really mandatory? 3

4 Student literacy competency: - Students face a greater requirement for reading in an online course than they do in the same course presented in the f2f classroom. Student s personal issues: - The recently completed: A W Study: Why do students take a course online? Why do they withdraw? by Jurgen Hilke of Frederick Community College, suggests that distance learning students find that the pressures that caused them to enroll in an online course were also the causative factors that caused those students to withdraw from their courses. So, if a student enrolls in an online course because of work or family issues, without some amelioration of those pressures, the convenience of an online course may be insufficient to ensure success. Although Dr. Hilke s work identified these pressures as the most important other issues also received mention from the students including: lack of technology competency; and technical problems. At Chesapeake, we have spent a lot of time worrying about technology competency and technical issues but very little time working on student work and family issues. We need to focus more of our efforts on this very challenging area for support. Leadership Issues: - Equity in all of the above listed problems: o Course design and delivery If we have problems with course design and delivery in the online environment, those courses should not be delivered and those instructors should not be teaching are we willing to apply the same standard for our face to face classes? o Student technology and literacy competency At Chesapeake we pride ourselves on being an open enrollment institution. Should we bar students from taking courses for which they are unprepared? Are we willing to do the same in our face to face classes? o Student personal issues: If we provide special support to assist with student issues for online classes, must we not also provide the same support for face to face classes? Mike Kilgus, Vice President for Administrative Services will ask the all-important question, How will we pay for this? With headlines announcing no new funding for this ambitious completion goal, and foundations insisting that we can reallocate current resources, what can we realistically expect to accomplish at institutions already stretched to the limit by dramatic increases in enrollment? It is difficult for small, rural schools to obtain grant funding for such endeavors: o We are not competitive numerically o We do not have adequate staff to monitor opportunities and prepare proposals Local funding is decreasing as a percentage of college funding The future of state funding is uncertain, but will almost certainly not keep pace with need Record enrollment growth has already stretched our resources, yet we are being asked to reallocate Meaningful change should be based on data; we do not yet have the capability to gather what we need effectively 4

5 Staffing to meet the completion goals will be costly, and will compete with other priorities Leadership Challenges Shorten the lag time from implementation of programs to recognition of success of initiatives Create a culture of grants development among faculty and staff Align completion goals with the current strategic plan 5

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