Arkansas, Montana and Oklahoma lead initiative to improve college completion rates
Higher education officials in Arkansas, Montana and Oklahoma are launching a initiative aimed at increasing college completion and equity for students in their states. The three states were chosen as partners by Complete College America (CCA), the national non-profit organization dedicated to improving post-secondary success in the United States.
The new effort, announced today, is made possible by a $1.75 million grant from Ascendium Education Groupwho supports the CCAPolicy, Equity and Practice of (PEP), a program launched in 2021 with the goal of improving college completion rates for students from historically underserved backgrounds.
Higher education agencies in each state will bring together a global cohort of 40 participating colleges and universities to implement and scale proven strategies to eliminate disparities in higher education outcomes.
Their effort will stem from CCA’s emphasis on what it calls ““Goal First” Strategiesthat emphasize the connection between student goals and academic planning, particularly early in college so that students quickly gain momentum toward college success and completion.
Key elements of the Goals First strategy involve developing first-year experiences, introducing career exploration early in college, aligning early courses with career goals, and promoting specific engagement of adult learners.
“More than a decade after states set bold goals to increase post-secondary education, we see progress is possible. However, the pandemic has introduced a new set of hurdles that could undermine this progress and reverse some of the same hard-won gains,” said Dr. Yolanda Watson Spiva, president of Complete College America, in the announcement. “To support inclusive and competitive economies at the state level, we must ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to reach their full educational potential and develop the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the labor market of today.”
Through PEP, each state will pursue policy reforms aimed at increasing college completion and adapting to their local circumstances and the state’s strategic plans for higher education:
- The Arkansas Department of Higher Education will work to help colleges, universities, and the state meet their 2030 goals set out in its Master plan;
- Montana’s university system will expand its Montana 10 program, which provides academic, social, and financial supports designed to help students succeed in college, while expanding statewide adoption of corequisite supports;
- Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will work to strengthen the connection between higher education and the workforce, both for adult learners and for high school students taking classes dual registration.
The problem addressed by the CCA initiative is an important one. It is estimated that nationally, approximately 90% of students from first-generation low-income families who do not graduate within six years, and 56% of first generation students have not graduated from post-secondary education after six years. the National Center for Education Statistics of the United States Department of Education reports that the six-year graduation rates for black and Latino students stand at 51.5%, which is lower than the graduation rates for white students.
Post-secondary education completion and training remain key elements for individuals to be competitive in today’s economy. That’s why it’s “critical that we increase the number and proportion of working-age adults with a post-secondary degree by 2025,” said Maria Markham, Director of the Division of higher education in Arkansas. “We are thrilled to join other state leaders and institutions who are working to ensure that more students in our state graduate on time and that students from all backgrounds can access education and training they need to achieve their personal and professional goals. »