Completion Pledging

From today’s Inside Higher Ed:

If an incoming community college student were asked right off the bat to pledge to complete a degree or credential, in a moment of truth, would that student think of his promise before transferring or dropping out? What if thousands of others signed the same pledge? What if faculty and the president had signed one promising to do all they could to help the student complete?…

Craig Hale, president of the chapter at Ivy Tech’s Richmond campus, helped gather more than 600 signatures on his campus Monday, and will continue the work throughout the week. To keep students engaged in the pledge, the group is planning potential giveaways and events: popcorn in about a month when commitment starts to wane, and something else around midterms. Hale also wants to have similar pledge-gathering events at the beginning of every semester, indefinitely.

“When a student signs the pledge, they are committing to themselves, to their completion,” Hale said. “Keeping the student’s pledge in the forefront of their mind throughout the semester and years will renew the individual commitment.”

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

Did anybody else (other than me and the second commenter) think, immediately of “Chastity Pledges”? Somehow, I don’t think the Pledge Movement is going to move the needle…

Of Colleges and Cost Effective Solutions

I thought this article from Inside Higher Ed was fascinating when I read it back in December, but I saved it because I didn’t want it to get buried in Finals and grading and the rest. I haven’t made my way to the “working paper” that is mentioned here, yet, but I hope someone does (see the link at the bottom of the post).

Here are a few teasers from it:

The paper lays out in stark detail one of higher education’s most vexing questions: How is it that a nation can spend more than it did 20 years ago on postsecondary education, admit more students to college, and still have stagnant if not worsening completion rates? Perhaps, the authors argue, it’s because colleges invest in what sounds good instead of figuring out what works well…

And later:

“They don’t really know which of the programs are working and which are not working,” said Douglas N. Harris, a co-author of the report and associate professor of educational policy studies.”

And just a bit more:

So what does improve degree completion productivity? Apart from using more full-time faculty, there’s evidence to suggest that something as basic as picking up a phone and calling students who’ve missed class makes a big difference at relatively little cost, the paper notes. The researchers drew upon data from Des Moines Area Community College, which created a call center and found that the persistence rates were between 2 and 15 percentage points higher among students with whom they had conversations than among those whom were only left voicemails. While the data are limited, the college’s experiment suggests outreach and student contact matter, the paper notes.

Because call centers are relatively inexpensive, a college could produce just a few additional degrees with that method and still be more cost-effective than a popular program like Upward Bound, which supports low-income students but comes at a high cost, the report finds.

Read the rest or go right to the paper.

Chronicle Day: On Completion and Regionality

So, earlier this week, I posted a bunch of stuff from Inside Higher Ed. Today, it’s the Chronicle of Higher Education’s day in the sun (at least until news trickles back from this morning’s Board meeting–which, hopefully, you will be attending if you don’t have classes to teach/attend).

This first one is about a pair of papers about steps that may be taken to improve completion rates. Check it out here.

The federal government should get more involved in the country’s degree-completion agenda by creating policies that would allow easier transfer of students’ prior credits and learning experiences, according to scholars who spoke at a forum on Thursday about improving educational attainment.

New federal policies that would focus on improving education in the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan regions that cross state boundaries could also increase the number of people with college degrees, the scholars said. One in five Americans live in those regions, and one-quarter of their residents are under the age of 18.

The ideas were presented during a forum, held by the Center for American Progress, that focused on examining the stronger role that the federal government could play in improving degree-completion rates.

I know that this might not be the week to talk out loud about an “expanded Federal role” in anything, but the targets are federal ones, so the assistance maybe ought to be, too.

Bridge Programs Considered

This is an interesting look at the challenges faced by schools– even really successful schools–with respect to completion goals.

From the piece:

Hostos, a 550-student middle and high school, is already a success story in New York City’s South Bronx. The school – whose students are 99 percent minority, with two-thirds living at or below the poverty line – graduates about 90 percent of its students in four years, and nearly the same percentage go to college. That’s well above graduation rates that are closer to 50 percent in the rest of the South Bronx, where most of the students live.

But even in such a successful school, getting 100 percent of students to accumulate 60 college credits proved impossible. Hostos is now working toward more achievable goals revolving around college preparation. This evolution serves as a window into both the challenges and accomplishments of the national early-college program, which has softened its original goal of requiring all students to earn two years of transferable college credit. Now, an associate’s degree is optional.

Read the whole thing.

A Timely Question

I bumped across this piece today. It isn’t rabble rousing, and it isn’t knee jerk reactionism to the recent calls for focus on completion from all corners of higher education. It’s even supportive of those ends, but with questions to consider, too.

Its author, Terry O’Banion, puts it like this:

“If this completion agenda proves to be successful, the outcome will be a significant accomplishment for our students and for our society. No sensible person will argue with these goals or outcomes.

“Fortunately, these initiatives are led by some of the most able community college leaders in the nation, leaders who are deeply committed to the core values of the community college. They are well aware of the pitfalls and the skeletons in the closets of the nation’s community colleges; they fully understand that cynicism is the sidekick of failed promises. They know our limitations yet they persevere — because the cause is good and the cause is right.

“Great movements, however — especially those cast as “urgent imperatives” — often have unintended consequences, and it would be wise for all of us to consider what some of these consequences might be for the completion agenda. We must ask the question: To what end? The savvy leaders of these initiatives, of course, have not been unaware of the larger perspective raised by the question: To what end? They ask this question every day of their efforts. They worry over whether the agenda is too narrowly focused, if there are sufficient resources, if college leaders are willing and able to deliver. They wrestle, and we all need to wrestle, with all of the following issues: …”

Check it out.