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October 2010
What's Happening

IHELP Presents at Time to Completion State Policy Convening – Colleen Moore, IHELP research specialist, gave an invited presentation in Baltimore to the Time to Completion State Policy Convening on October 7, 2010, an event co-sponsored by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and the Southern Regional Education Board. The Time to Completion Project, sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, is focused on finding ways to reduce the time students take to graduate from public colleges and universities in order to improve productivity in higher education and allow more students to be served. Moore’s presentation summarized IHELP’s work in developing a policy audit template that can be used by states and systems in evaluating whether their policies are aligned with the goal of reducing time to completion. JFF has turned the template into an on-line Policy Exploration Tool. Click here to view the policy tool.

New Los Angeles Regional Community College Success Report – Next month, the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) will release an IHELP report that applies the analysis used in our recent report, Divided We Fail, to the colleges within the Los Angeles Community College District. The new regional report, titled Divided We Fail in LA: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in the Los Angeles Community College District and sponsored by ABC, analyzes the progress and outcomes of degree- and certificate-seeking students in the Los Angeles Community College District. The study uses the milestone framework to track student progress and outcomes by race and ethnicity.  IHELP will release in the next few months shorter regional profiles highlighting key findings of this nature for 13 regions of the state.

IHELP Awarded New Grant - IHELP has been awarded a grant from the Gates Foundation to evaluate the implementation of the new Western Governors University (WGU) Indiana, an on-line university offering degrees to Indiana residents in several key workforce areas through competency-based (rather than credit-based) instruction. Our evaluation will examine the viability of such a state-sponsored version of WGU for reaching underserved populations, and the feasibility of replicating the model in other states. The project is timely given the Legislative Analyst’s recent recommendation for California to form a task force to identify the steps needed to establish a WGU California.


Features This Month

Divided We Fail: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California's Community Colleges

IHELP's newest report, sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity, analyzes the progress and outcomes of degree- and certificate-seeking students in the California Community College system. The study tracks the 2003-04 entering cohort (more than a quarter of a million students) over six years, analyzing their progress along a series of intermediate milestones and completion outcomes by race/ethnicity. The report points out the risks to the entire state posed by racial/ethnic disparities and offers recommendations for changes to policy and practice with a goal of improving student success, especially among underrepresented minority populations. The recommendations include coordinating a systemwide effort to analyze and publicly report cohort data on enrollment patterns and student progress for each college and adopting a new funding model for the community colleges.

View the report

In case you missed it - Taking the Next Step: The Promise of Intermediate Measures for Meeting Postsecondary Completion Goals

This report, sponsored by Jobs for the Future and written by IHELP Research Specialist Jeremy Offenstein and IHELP Director Nancy Shulock, examines efforts across the country to develop and use intermediate measures of student progression and success as a tool to improve public accountability and guide institutional efforts to improve student success. The report distinguishes between milestones that must be attained in order to get to completion and success indicators that increase a student’s chances of completion. The report analyzes the differences across the various initiatives studied in approach, definitions, and uses of data on intermediate measures and offers recommendations on the collection, reporting, and effective use of the data and the need for common practices and definitions.

View the report

Spotlight On

Addressing Misconceptions about Divided We Fail:

We would like to respond to a few misconceptions we have heard expressed about the methods used and messages intended in Divided We Fail:

  • The report recognizes and honors the multiple missions of the colleges.  We analyze progression and completion for students pursuing workforce-oriented certificates and degrees as well as for those pursuing transfer.  As for those who attend the colleges for reasons other than earning some kind of credential, we honor those intentions by removing more than a third of entering students from the analysis based on their early enrollment patterns; it makes no sense to talk about program completion for those who only intend to take a couple of courses. 

  • The report acknowledges the enormous challenges the colleges face in serving so many students who are under-prepared and who face huge obstacles to college completion, and in serving  them within serious budgetary constraints.  There are no goals or expectations set forth in the report that are unreasonable for an open access system.  We do offer a specific set of data tools for colleges to use to learn where students are getting stuck, which students are getting stuck, and why students may be getting stuck so they might focus scarce resources where they can have the biggest impact.  This approach is consistent with best practices by leading states that are similarly pursuing increased student success and beginning to see positive results. 

  • The report emphasizes that increasing student success is a shared responsibility of educators, state policymakers, and the many who advocate on behalf of student success.  The community college system has an obligation to make student success a priority across its campuses and it is taking major steps to do just that.  But the colleges need to pursue their work within a supportive state policy environment.  The report calls for the kinds of bold policy changes that the leading states are enacting to provide the right incentives and the best environment in support of student success.   

We are very encouraged by the energy and actions around student success and are hopeful that by highlighting the urgency of the issue and providing data, data analysis tools, and policy suggestions, we will see accelerated efforts by educators, state leaders, and advocates, working together to ensure that college success is a top priority for California.



Sacramento State Institute For Higher Education Leadership & Policy

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