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Ohio college honored for improving student success

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Paul Brown, president of Zane State College in Ohio, accepts the Leah Meyer Austin Award at the annual Achieving the Dream conference.

​DALLAS — Zane State College in Ohio has received the annual Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Student Success Leadership Award for its work on improving developmental education, retention rates and the college-readiness of its students.

The college’s Achieving the Dream strategies have changed its culture and raised the prospects of residents in the rural Appalachian communities that it serves. Seventy-six percent of Zane State’s entering students need at least one developmental course; 87 percent of students receive financial aid.

Changes in institutional culture helps community discuss race, poverty“Zane State College’s resolute commitment to student success and completion has set them apart as an impressive example of what is possible at community colleges all across the country,” William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, said in a statement. The award—which includes a $25,000 prize that ZSC may use for purpose to improve student success—was presented on Tuesday at the annual Achieving the Dream conference.

Trueheart noted the college’s strong leadership, broad institutional engagement, breadth of successful programs, and the pervasive impact of its programs on the community.

“Zane State is showing the nation that high-level commitment and well-focused, evidence-based decision-making can lead to substantial improvements in student success and completion,” he said.

Zane State President Paul Brown said the Achieving the Dream model has served as an invaluable guide to increase retention rates and close achievement gaps at the college, and overall improve the lives of its students.

“Using data to inform our program implementation and decision making processes, ever mindful of our core values of respect, responsiveness, and responsibility, has changed the way we do business,” Brown said.

Improving student support

Zane State designed and implemented several innovative programs that bolstered at-risk student support systems. Those efforts have yielded impressive results. For example, the average success rate across all developmental courses at Zane State is 78 percent.

After the college’s success with its Math Advising Initiative—a program that encourages students to take developmental math in their first quarter in college and provides dedicated math advising for at-risk students—Zane State expanded the program to include all developmental education students. As a result, first year completion of developmental math increased by 21 percentage points, developmental English by 24 percentage points, and developmental reading by 13 percentage points.

Narrowing gaps

Developmental education students are also closing the gap between them and college-ready students in gatekeeper courses. Since 2009, three out of four students are succeeding in college-level gatekeeper courses irrespective of their initial placement status, according to the college. The increases occurred during a period of unprecedented enrollment growth, with a disproportionately high number of students who needed developmental education.

In addition, Zane State has partnered with several Ohio colleges to start innovative programs focused on increasing retention. Among the programs was QuickStart, a free, eight-week program for students unsure about their ability to enter college successfully and those who try to register late without applying for federal student aid. In addition, the college has implemented other programs, including conditional admission, learning communities, and pre-enrollment computer training.

Zane State also is investing in professional development for its employees to foster a broader understanding about the college’s “personal touch” philosophy, its access mission, and the students’ general backgrounds, which can affect their learning.

The Leah Meyer Austin Award is sponsored by the Lumina Foundation and administered by the American Association of Community Colleges.

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