College Aims To Improve Degree Completion
Shasta College will join Degrees When Due, a national initiative led by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) to help improve degree-completion, especially among students with some college credits, but no degree.
In the Shasta College service area of Shasta, Trinity and Tehama counties, around 1 out of 3 adults have some college but no degree, compared to 1 out of 5 adults nationwide. This translates to a significant pool of adults that will directly benefit from this program.
This fall, the staff at Shasta College and College of the Siskiyous will begin a 9-month online learning experience on degree reclamation, a set of evidence-based and equity-focused strategies aimed at identifying degree-eligible students and successfully re-engaging stopped-out students. The training comes complete with guided lessons and live coaching from expert practitioners who have successfully implemented these strategies.
Staff at both campuses will learn how to identify degree-eligible students who have earned the right credits for an associate degree and to successfully re-engage students who have stopped-out with targeted supports to help them complete their studies.
Shasta College is also planning to expand its ACE program (Accelerated College Education) so it’s even more appealing to returning, nontraditional students.
“We’ve built a program that is very friendly to working adults featuring courses that are eight weeks long instead of a full semester,” ACE Director Buffy Tanner said. “The key part of the program is the compressed classes, but another important feature is that half of the classes are fully online. It’s very flexible and helps with working adults’ schedules and competing life responsibilities.”
There is also a dedicated counselor and a financial aid adviser available to help students. Tanner said the college will begin reaching out to former students early next year.
Nationwide, campuses in the first Degrees When Due cohort will be equipped to award new associate degrees to as many as 30,000 students. Within three years, campuses in 32 states will join Degrees When Due, and as campuses and postsecondary systems optimize policies to identify and support returning students, the initiative will result in as many as 500,000 new graduates.
“When a college student becomes a graduate, she moves closer to realizing her full potential. But when she pauses her studies, even after earning enough credits, and never receives her degree, that potential becomes much harder to realize,” said IHEP President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. “Through Degrees When Due we’re helping schools build the capacity to help more low-income students and students of color cross the degree-completion finish line.”
Degrees When Due is the result of a shared commitment to increase degree attainment among the nearly 4 million students with some college credits, but no degree. Together, Lumina Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, and ECMC Foundation have invested $5.8 million to support this endeavor. This combined commitment represents the largest investment in an IHEP initiative and will ensure that states and institutions can participate at no charge.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that each year, almost one in five students enrolled in a postsecondary program falls short of earning a degree or credential. Many students pause their studies – or stop-out – because of financial challenges, work and family obligations, or other personal commitments. These students are more likely to be women, people of color, first-generation students and from low-income households. The Center estimates that nearly 4 million students nationwide have completed at least two years of college credits but have yet to earn an associate degree.
Many students complete a significant amount of credits at two-year institutions without obtaining an associate degree. Through Degrees When Due, institutions will learn how to perform successful degree audits to identify students already eligible for degrees. Institutions will also be supported in locating and engaging students who are a few credits away from completion, to encourage them to re-enroll and complete their studies.
By fall 2019, IHEP will publish initial findings detailing the impact of degree reclamation strategies on increasing degree attainment rates and related impacts on students’ livelihoods.