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Community colleges in four states will share $500,000 grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to collaborate on projects to boost college completion. The Gates initiative is part of a nation effort to devise and share new approaches to help students finish postsecondary education more quickly and with greater rates of success.
In Texas, the Lone Star College System (LSCS) will serve as the managing partner for its Completion by Design project, which will include Alamo Colleges, the Dallas Community College District/Cedar Valley College, El Paso Community College and South Texas College. The colleges represent more than 235,000 students, nearly one-third of all community college students in Texas.
The project aims to build on proven practices and develop new approaches in areas such as financial aid counseling, course scheduling and advising, according to LSCS.
“The work from this grant has the capacity to forever change the educational landscape of community colleges in Texas and across the country,” said LSCS Chancellor Richard Carpenter. “Currently, colleges around the state are not in sync with their approach to student success and completion. Imagine what we can do as we all invest in the same program.”
Colleges in the three other states received grants of similar amounts through the initiative. In Ohio, Sinclair Community College, Stark State College and Lorain County Community College will partner on the project. In North Carolina, Guilford Technical Community College, Davidson County Community College, Central Piedmont Community College, Martin Community College and Wake Technical Community College will team up. Miami Dade College in Florida also received a Gates grant.
The Gates Foundation announced the Completion by Design initiative last fall at the White House Summit on Community Colleges. According to federal data, just 22 percent of first-time, full-time students in community college graduate in three years. For Hispanics and African-Americans, the rates are 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
In Texas, only 10 percent of seventh-grade Hispanic students complete a college credential within six years after scheduled high school graduation. Seventy-one percent of all Hispanic enrollments in higher education in Texas are in community colleges—and more than half of them leave without a credential.
The first stage of the five-year plan of Completion by Design is planning. Representatives from each partner college will review promising practices and create a model pathway to completion. The colleges will then implement the plans at their campuses, pending approval and further funding from the foundation.
The final phase will bring the project to scale across other community colleges in the participating states and other states.
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges