Around 53 percent of certificate or degree-seeking Central Oregon Community College students typically receive their degree or certificate at the end of spring term each year, but only a portion of those students are considered a “success” by federal standards supplied by the U.S. Department of Education.
In a story reported by a local news outlet, it was stated that COCC’s graduation rate is currently around 14 percent. However, according to Dean of Students, Alicia Moore, federal statistics are only calculated based on students who are full-time and first-time college students, and that is not always the criteria for a community college student. The U.S. Department of Education does not consider certificate seeking students, students who transfer, students who have dropped out and since returned, and students who are not seeking a certificate or degree, successes when calculating graduation rate.
Moore further elaborated on this topic by stating, “Ultimately, the way in which the U. S. Department of Education calculates graduation rates no longer aligns with the enrollment patterns and intent of today’s community college student.” For community colleges, it often appears that they have low graduations rates when in reality, there are many other factors that create the graduation rates each year.
Last year, COCC received a one-time fund for the following academic year to help ensure student success, retention of the student and graduation for those receiving financial aid through Oregon Promise (OP). This fund backs the requirements for OP including the completion of a student success course, first term advising and mandatory attendance of the Bobcat Orientation. At the end of this academic year COCC will be reviewing the success of this program to decide if an FYE program should be ongoing for years to come for all students, according to Moore.
However, Moore explained that the college also receives a federal Title III grant that has been proposed to redesign existing math and writing curriculum, review the placement testing program and create a permanent FYE program, regardless of the one-time fund given to ensure the effectiveness of OP. Moore stated that this Title III grant and its programs are intended to retain students after their first year, which will lead to the ultimate goal of higher completion rates. Moore mentioned that COCC is in the process of creating some sort of FYE program. At this point in time, the college has hired FYE experts to ensure a smooth transition for first year students and make important decisions regarding the potential program.
Moore elaborated by mentioning that the important decisions include, but are not limited to, whether or not the FYE program should be mandatory for all students, how the program would be sustained, how the current college success classes could be improved to go along with the FYE program and policies and whether or not processes within the orientation and advising realms should be modified.
According to Moore, the plan at this moment is to have a draft of the program ready for “campus feedback” by Fall 2017. If all goes as planned, a pilot program would most likely occur for those students beginning classes in Fall 2018. According to Moore, this means that the decision will not be completed for about a year.
“I am very proud of this direction and the energy that more than 25 faculty and staff bring to this work,” Moore stated.
Moore also believes all of the work COCC is doing to increase the retention and completion rates of its students will pay off and be successful in achieving those goals.
By McKayla Schneider | The Broadside