Within the first few weeks in Austin, on his drive to work, he encountered a large billboard that said “Austin Community College, Graduation Rate 4% -‐ Is this a good use of taxpayers dollars? The billboard was sponsored by a business leader with a variety of concerns over higher education in the Lone Star state.
My friend contacted the newspaper and asked for an opportunity to respond.
Not long ago, a good friend and outstanding college president moved from El Paso Community College, where for a decade he had led a complete transformation of the college and the results its students achieved, to Austin Community College, a college ready for much the same kind of transformational leadership.
The harsh criticism came from a place of deep affection for higher education, from our friends and supporters, and is therefore even harder to dismiss or ignore.
As I looked deeper into the story, I discovered a few important themes for our ongoing work, principles that can inform our work toward improving our results and help us to move the needle on student completion. Be careful what and how you are measuring -- it is sure to be misused.
So here is the challenge we face as an industry: We are being asked to achieve much better results with fewer resources to engage a needier student population in an atmosphere of serious skepticism where all journalism is yellow and our larger society no longer exempts our institutions (nor us) from the deep distrust that has grown toward all institutions. Your GPA is excellent, you volunteered at the local homeless shelter, you played Varsity lacrosse, and you’re a nationally-ranked debater. For a lot of students, the college entrance exams feel like torturous enigmas, stumbling blocks on the way to a better college, a better future. Top Ten Knights The University of Central Florida has introduced its Top Ten Knights program in light of new research which indicates that high school GPA is by far the most important factor in predicting success for college applicants. Program Requirments/Information: Wilkes Medical Scholars Program The Wilkes Medical Scholars Program is a highly selective, early admission program into the Charles E.You like to do things well, but your SAT/ACT scores are killing you. Program Requirements: Burnett Medical Scholars Program (8 yrs) The Burnett Medical Scholars Program is currently in its first year and it is designed to facilitate the articulation of Burnett Honors College students into UCF’s College of Medicine M. Schmidt College of Medicine for Florida students interested in careers in medicine.My friend Richard’s answer was subtle and clever, disarming the reporters who were surely expecting a defensive response.And he would be the last to tell you he was satisfied with their current completion rates.How can transfer be included in the assessment and reporting when students swirl among so many institutions, many of which don’t share student unit record information easily?And once a student transfers, who owns baccalaureate completion as an outcome for transfers? Should the mission of helping the 30 million adults in America, with some college but no degree, be represented in the measures? So here are some further principles in the area of metrics: 2. Performance measures like completion, at their best, should be designed and published primarily for the purpose of improving performance – pointing to alterable variables, measuring in ways that account for varying missions.At the national level we have deep partisan differences over financial aid policy and deep concern over mounting student debt, yet no consensus on meaningful solutions that could protect students from the more unsavory edges of the industry and allow for rational pricing and positioning by colleges and universities in 50 states.But with all of this to worry and whine about, few of us have been welcomed to work as negatively as my good friend Richard.But the fact is, if one defines completion at Austin Community College to mean graduation OR successful transfer, the rate goes from under four percent to 43 percent -‐ still not as high as ACC aspires to achieve, but hardly worthy of a nasty billboard.The fact is, “completion” remains a largely undefined term, especially in the minds of the press and the public.