Leader College is a national designation awarded to select community colleges that commit to improving student success and also present clear evidence their efforts have resulted in improved student performance.
Achieving the Dream, Inc., a national nonprofit funded in part by the Gates and Lumina Foundations, is dedicated to helping more community college students stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. LCC was selected through a competitive process in 2011 to participate in the program which includes just 208 of the 1,200 U.S. community and technical colleges.
"Leader College distinction recognizes the innovative work and dedication to helping our students that is demonstrated every day by LCC faculty and staff," said LCC President Chris Bailey.
"It also qualifies the college for select grant funding to supplement our current budget. But most important, the award shows that our efforts are helping more students complete college and prepare for good jobs in our community."
Specifically, the Leader College designation recognizes efforts at LCC to assist students in completing college math requirements. Historically, the ability to be successful in math has posed a significant barrier for many students pursuing a college credential at LCC and across the nation. In order to address that barrier, a significant portion of LCC’s involvement in the ATD program has focused on math pathways.
LCC math faculty have incrementally redesigned the pre-college math curriculum and placement process to improve student success and increase the number of students persisting to college level. Reform efforts included eliminating duplication of course content and reducing the pre-college math sequence from four five-credit courses to a three-quarter series of 2- and 3-credit modules, so students learn just what they need. Even with the more condensed format, student completion has remained steady.
Reducing the proportion of students who withdraw from a math course is also a significant aspect of this goal. Over the past four years, LCC has decreased the withdrawal rate for pre-college math from 12 percent to 9 percent. Opportunities for students to take practice placement exams and study math concepts online have also been greatly expanded. Math Boot Camps are regularly offered to help prepare students at the lower end of the pre-college spectrum for pre-college coursework and/or re-testing.
Additionally, LCC math faculty have provided the leadership necessary to form strong K-12 partnerships in math, including extensive collaboration with high school math teachers on curriculum alignment. The result has been significant and ongoing curriculum alignment and the adoption of high school transcript (math placement) agreements that allow students earning a B grade or higher in specified high school math classes to move directly into college-level work without a placement test.
The impact of this partnership can be seen in the 20 percent decline in the number of recent high school graduates placing into pre-college math. Instead, they are going directly into college level math. In the future Math Boot Camps will be extended into the high schools as well.
Increases in enrollment into college-level math courses for all students further illustrates success as the following statistics demonstrate:
*Math or Math& courses numbered 100 or above
Over the past three years, LCC has also redesigned its pre-college English program to help students move faster into college-level courses and to pass those classes; developed a first-year seminar course to provide additional support for students whose placement test scores are below college level reading and/or writing and created a mandatory orientation for new students to insure they begin their studies at the right level and with the services needed to succeed.
Earlier this year in August 2014, LCC was recognized by the White House for its student success efforts, including the creation of a unique $1.5 million Student Success Endowment Fund providing $50,000 annually to help an estimated 150 students facing financial hardship to stay in school by covering extra expenses including tuition, textbooks, testing fees, emergency childcare and transportation.
New data indicates all these interventions are working well. The percentage of LCC students who lost eligibility to receive financial aid for Summer 2014 due to poor academic performance dropped by over 60% compared to Summer 2013. Likewise, the percentage of students placed on academic warning for poor performance comparing the same periods was down 25%.
Helping students succeed and stay in school is believed to be part of the reason enrollment at the college has increased to 119% of its state-funded target this fall, up almost 4% over last year. This is especially significant since enrollment is falling at most community and technical colleges in Washington. Higher enrollments bring increased tuition funds for the LCC operating budget and help offset 26% in state funding reductions that occurred during the recent recession.
"The work of improving student success is critically important to our education and economy," said Carol Lincoln, Achieving the Dream Senior Vice President.
"These 16 institutions have demonstrated that better student outcomes are possible when institutions focus on policies and practices that help students learn at high levels and overcome challenges life throws at them. These colleges are working hard to move the needle for whole cohorts of students, and deserve recognition for their relentless efforts and promising accomplishments."