UT report looks at improving community college completion rates

Adam Hamze

A recent University report aimed to find which practices could increase the rate of course completion among students who enroll in a two-year college. Of these students, 54 percent either receive a degree, earn a certificate or are still enrolled six years later.

The report, developed by the Center for Community College Student Engagement in the College of Education, revealed 13 “high impact” practices that would help raise the current percentage of completion, including supplemental instruction, tutoring, learning communities and structured academic goal setting and planning.

Titled “A Matter of Degrees: Practices to Pathways,” the report was the final piece of a three-year study conducted by the center and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and Lumina foundations. Evelyn Waiwaiole, the center’s director, said the study was intended to improve the student experience as a whole, in addition to closing the gap between students who enroll in classes and students who complete them.

According to Waiwaiole, many colleges offer the suggested “high impact” practices, but not as many students are taking advantage of such resources. 

“While increasing numbers of institutions are offering such practices, only small numbers of colleges require them, and far too few students are participating in them,”
Waiwaiole said.

Developmental education students who take student success courses are five times more likely to complete a developmental English course, but only 25 percent of students are taking advantage of the resource, Waiwaiole said. 

Waiwaiole also said that although fiscal resources are limited for community colleges, many of the practices — such as a required attendance policy — do not require much funding. 

“Colleges are being asked to do more with less,” Waiwaiole said. “But some of the practices discussed above are relatively low cost.”