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Texas Completes ready for next phase of completion plan

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​A group of five community colleges in Texas will soon start implementing a statewide student success and credential completion effort called Texas Completes.

The group last week announced its initial action plan and strategy to improve the Texas community college completion rate based on findings from its first year. It will focus on implementing the following initiatives as a first step in the effort to create a unified student pathway to success:

  • Revise the curriculum to quickly get students into programs of study, streamline time to degree and facilitate transfer to four-year institutions.
  • Create a comprehensive student advising and management system that ensures students a strong start and consistent feedback along each step of their way through college.
  • Restructure developmental education to reduce time spent in pre-collegiate coursework.

With its planning phase funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under the former initiative Texas Completion by Design, the new Texas Completes initiative will move ahead with the financial support of state and regional funders. (Other two-year colleges selected to participate in the national Completion by Design program are in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.)

Rallying key stakeholders

The Texas Completes team has worked over the past year to identify community college policies and procedures that hinder student success and to develop solutions to eliminate barriers. The project is led by the Lone Star College System (LSCS) and partners include Alamo Colleges, Dallas County Community College District, El Paso Community College and South Texas College. Collectively, the partnering colleges enroll 289,000 students—more than one-third of all community college students in the state and 20 percent of all Texas undergraduate college students.

Richard Carpenter, LSCS chancellor and incoming chairman of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said the effort has pulled together key players to ensure its goals are met.

“The momentum and coherence across Texas as a result of our 18 months of collaborative work is profound and we are determined to succeed,” Carpenter said in a news release. “Groups are working together throughout Texas like never before—our community colleges, universities, the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and philanthropic groups. Even the Texas legislature is rallying around the work of Texas Completes and our focus on student success.”

Focused on policy changes

A critical part of Texas Completes is its statewide policy board that serves to cultivate a receptive environment for reform and create momentum for scale throughout the state. Part of the board’s charge is to help identify and mitigate policy and funding challenges that are barriers to student success.

The board comprises state and field stakeholders representing education (K-16), business and labor, as well as nonprofits and philanthropy. This group includes organizations that have not worked together to advocate for policy changes affecting community colleges and their students. Members of the board—which is chaired by Richard Rhodes, president of Austin Community College—include both the state House and Senate higher education committee chairs, the Texas Workforce Commission, THECB, TACC, Texas Association of Business, Greater Houston Partnership, University of Texas, Houston Endowment and Greater Texas Foundation.

The board first met in March, where it determined key policy areas of focus: transfer and articulation, developmental education and performance-based funding.

Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the THECB, said his board supports the Texas Completes effort and the work of its cadre of five community colleges going forward.

“We know that for Texas to become a national and international leader in education by 2030—which is one of our goals—it must accelerate its efforts,” Paredes said. “Texas Completes creates an important framework for alignment on that strategy and we are eager to work with the cadre on advancing this important agenda.”

Since being awarded the initial planning grant from the Gates Foundation last fall, the working teams for the project—which include more than 175 faculty, staff and administrators—have focused on the planning phase. From analyzing data and leading student focus groups, to conducting workshops and completing faculty surveys, the group is identifying best-practice models and creating unified student pathways to completion that will increase student success across the board, according to Carpenter.

“We continue to push forward as a group to design the best completion pathway for all Texas students,” he said. “Student success is at the core of everything we do.”

 (Below, a brief video from the Texas Completion by Design kickoff meeting last fall.)