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Valle Verde Campus of El Paso Community College in Texas. (Photo: Fernie Garcia)
El Paso Community College (EPCC) in Texas has received the 2011 Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Student Success Leadership Award for increasing student success and college access.
EPCC received the award, which comes with a $25,000 prize to go toward student success programs and initiatives, during the opening of the annual Achieving the Dream Strategy Institute this week in Indianapolis, Ind.
In partnership with Achieving the Dream, EPCC developed a college-going culture in a metropolitan area where 82 percent of residents are Hispanic, 27 percent are low-income and 54 percent have a high school diploma or less education.
EPCC’s multi-faceted strategy helped to: • Reduce the number of students who need developmental courses• Improve the performance of students who place in developmental courses• Add to enrollment in gateway courses (introductory and prerequisite courses) • Expand completion rates in gateway courses • Raise graduation rates
“The Achieving the Dream initiative was the best thing that could have happened to EPCC,” said EPCC President Richard Rhodes. “It motivated us to use data intentionally to inform our decision-making and helped us focus on student success.”
The outcomes have empowered the college’s faculty, staff, students and community to engage in promoting and supporting student success at higher levels, Rhodes said. Faculty and the community collaborated on the design and implementation of several innovative programs that bolstered at-risk student support systems. The programs—the College Readiness Initiative, the Summer Bridge Program (also known as Project Dream) and the Pretesting Retesting Educational Program—are examples of effective educational collaborations that promote student success.
The results of the collaborations: • While overall enrollments at EPCC grew from 2003 to 2009, fewer first-time-in-college students placed in three developmental education courses, and a greater proportion of students needed just one developmental education course.• Placements in developmental English and math decreased from 2003 to 2009, while overall enrollments grew. Math completion rates improved during the period. Reading completion rates held steady despite a significant increase in the number of students in developmental reading.• EPCC increased students’ enrollment in gateway English and math courses and the proportion of students who completed those gateway courses from 2003 to 2009.
The Leah Meyer Austin Award, sponsored by Lumina Foundation and administered by the American Association of Community Colleges, recognizes outstanding institutional achievement in creating excellence and equity. Leah Meyer Austin is a former senior vice president at Lumina Foundation for Education who shaped the development of Achieving the Dream.
Achieving the Dream also gave special recognition to Montgomery Community College (Pennsylvania) for its excellence in leveraging data and to Zane State College (Ohio) for its excellence in completion. The colleges each received $5,000 to use toward student success programs and initiatives.
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