Drafting a Plan for Student Success
May 08, 2012
We’ve all heard the projections: to compete effectively in the global economy of 2020, 60 percent of jobs in this country will require some level of college education, whether in the form of a certificate, an associate’s (two-year) degree, or bachelor’s (four-year) degree. Today only 42 percent of our workforce holds such credentials which puts us far behind countries including Korea with 63 percent of its workforce educated beyond high school, and Canada and Japan at 56 percent each.
As a nation, we need to make changes and make them soon or we can expect to be left in the dust of an industrialized, information-savvy global society that will gallop ahead of us to progress and prosperity. Bottom line: we need to create more college graduates.
At Dalton State, it means that we need to enroll students who are future-directed and will choose a pathway and stay on it until they earn the certificate or diploma they need to get the job they want and that we need for them to have.
As an access institution, our historical mission has been to provide post-secondary educational opportunity to the students of our region. Now we need to be more. Our message used to be “come to college;” now it needs to be expanded to “come to college and finish.” We need each student to begin with the end in mind and the end is going to look a lot like a degree, suitable for framing, with his or her name on it.
Twenty-nine like-minded states have joined a national coalition to address the issue of educational attainment. The coalition is called Complete College America and I’m proud to say that we are in the trenches to help Complete College Georgia meet its goal of 60 percent college credential attainment over the next eight years.
The goals of Complete College Georgia are aggressive and have required us to re-think how we do just about everything at Dalton State. We are now in the process of developing a detailed plan of how we are going to change our systems to help more students get from orientation to graduation as expeditiously as possible.
How do we do that? It begins with a culture change. Everyone on our campus –students, faculty, staff, administrators– has a personal stake in the success of each individual student. It’s not just the professors and advisors; it’s all of us. We must ask ourselves what we need to do to do ensure each one of our students leaves here with a diploma in hand.
We must do more to capture and analyze data to see where our stumbling blocks are. What programs have the highest drop-out rates? Which classes? What kinds of students are most likely to become derailed in their educational efforts? Where are our greatest successes and how can we replicate those on a larger scale?
We need to do more with our P-12 partners to improve college readiness. Programs such as Near Peer, Summer Bridge, and Summer Academy do much to prepare students for the rigors of college work – how do we take strategies we’ve learned from those successful programs and scale them up to include more students? We’d like to provide more outreach to Hispanic students and students interested in STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) fields and health occupations, areas expected to grow in job demand over the coming years.
We must shorten the time to degree completion which means we have to work closer with our technical college partners to facilitate transfer between systems and award credit for documented education and training earned on the job or in the military. On campus, we need to ensure students stay on track and do not take extra classes and amass extra credits not needed for their degrees.
We must be flexible and innovative in the ways we deliver instruction. This includes offering more hybrid and online classes and also redesigning courses to be more engaging to the learners that we serve.
Remedial classes must be redesigned. They need to be offered in creative new ways to engage remedial learners and get them earning credit in actual college courses more quickly and effectively. This may mean integrating remedial instruction into regular courses, or offering them in split session, or other structural changes.
The state of Georgia projects it will need almost a quarter million more college graduates for the workforce of 2020 than it has today. We simply must shepherd more of our students successfully from their first class on our campus to the Trade Center stage where they march across in cap and gown to accept a degree.