Office of Community College Research and Leadership

Our mission is to use research and evaluation methods to improve policies, programs, and practices to enhance community college education and transition to college for diverse learners at the state, national, and international levels.

OCCRL Twitter Chat Series: #BlackGirlExcellence in K-12, Community College, and University settings.
Thursday, April 28, 2016, 12pm-1pm CST on Twitter: #BlackGirlExcellence

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  • Reflections Upon 2016 ILACEP Summit- Dual Credit Status, Collaboration, and Compliance in Illinois

    The inaugural conference of Illinois Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (ILACEP) – the Illinois State Chapter of NACEP took place on Friday April 22, 2016. It was an exciting, interactive event that brought together dual credit professionals at all levels, including high schools, community colleges, universities, Education for Employment Centers/Regional Programs, as well as state and national organizations around a shared mission of building high school-college partnerships that accelerate and diversify student pathways to postsecondary education.

    The meeting highlighted presentations and updates from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Programs (NACEP), and the Ohio State Chapter of NACEP (OADEP), District 202, and ILACEP. OCCRL graduate research assistant John Lang and I presented the At the Crossroad of Access and Opportunity: Funding and Dual Credit Participation in Illinois, highlighting an exploratory study led by Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher that examined programs and policies relative to dual credit access, opportunity, and cost for underserved student populations in Illinois.

    In light of the current state budge crisis, there were concerns regarding the potential impact of the fiscal climate on dual credit programs across the state of Illinois. Ms. Whitney Hagy announced ICCB’s new rule that would only allow juniors and seniors to claim tuition reimbursement, so freshmen and sophomores who are academically qualified and who want to take dual credit courses will soon need to pay tuition. Shifts in who pays and how much it will cost to participate in dual credit are playing out in Illinois, meanwhile the state of Ohio is making dual credit free for all public school students in grades 7-12 and mandating all public colleges/universities and public school districts to offer dual credit. According to Mr. Tim Dorsey, President of OADEP, the statewide program called College Credit Plus allows dual credit students to bear no cost for tuition, books, or fees.

    The long-standing discussions around the issue of teacher credentialing were prominent at the ILACEP Summit. Mr. Dorsey shared Ohio’s $10 million dollar plan to help high school teachers earn appropriate credentials to teach dual credit (i.e., a master’s degree in the discipline taught or a master’s of any type and 18 graduate hours in the course subject area). Meanwhile, Illinois practitioners emphasized the need for institution-wide teacher support (e.g., flexible teaching/coaching schedule, make summer graduate courses available, etc.) that would allow teachers to pursue these educational opportunities. The bottom line: Policies that help to broaden dual credit participation and smooth the path to postsecondary education by underserved students in low-income communities must account for the entire early-college ecosystem, rather than solving one particular student challenge in a silo.

    Teacher incentives were discussed and considered one barrier to teacher credentialing and broadening student participation. Mr. Glenn Wood, Assistant Superintendent of District 202 and Ms. Gretchen Lohman from IBHE shared the P-20 Network Survey on dual credit that listed increased workload, no financial incentives, and financial cost of earning credentials as top three reasons of teacher barriers to meeting qualifications to teach general education dual credit courses. Moreover, when asked about what additional benefits teachers receive for teaching dual credit courses, half of the principals and teachers reported none.

    Evidently, there is room for improvement at both state and local levels. We are thrilled that so many enthusiastic, committed collaborators from across the state and region came together for a day of rich dialogue geared to accelerate postsecondary opportunities. I believe ILACEP, under the leadership of Dr. Dave Naze, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Prairie State College will build on this momentum moving forward as a state chapter that provides resources to its practitioners and help shape the concurrent enrollment policy that benefit the changing needs of students in Illinois.  

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  • Dr. Debra Bragg receives the Community College Baccalaureate Association Pioneer Award

    Dr. Debra Bragg, Gutgsell Endowed Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founding director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL), was honored by the Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA) with its annual Pioneer Award for her significant accomplishments and remarkable career devoted to improving access to postsecondary education.

    Mary Alice McCarthy, Senior policy Analyst at New America, presented the award, which recognized Dr. Bragg´s contributions to enhance the transition of youth and adults to college and careers and to improve access, equity and outcomes for students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students. Dr. Bragg has led research funded by federal, state, local government agencies as well studies funded by several foundations. Last year, she was also named an American Educational Research Association (AERA) Fellow.

    Dr. Bragg’s recognition took place during the 16th Annual International Conference of the CCBA held in Chicago, IL on March 18-19. Every year, the meeting brings together administrators and scholars in the U.S., including organizations in Australia and China, to learn from each others’ experiences about community college baccalaureate degrees.

    The CCBA Pioneer Award recognizes leaders who demonstrate the bravery and tenacity exhibited by early settlers in the United States, Canada, and many other countries and we could not agree more that Dr. Bragg’s career has been an outstanding example of such distinct virtues.

    Congratulations on a well-deserved recognition, Dr. Bragg!

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  • Transforming Retention Efforts at Rend Lake College

    Student retention is often a daunting task, especially in an open admission community college environment. “Our students’ success is our own success” is part of the mission statement at Rend Lake College (RLC). This commitment to students is evident by the fact that RLC has been repeatedly named one of the Aspen Institute's Top 150 Community Colleges in the nation. This recognition is based on a measure of our student success rates, which include first-year retention, three-year graduation rates and credentials awarded. At RLC, we understand that no matter how good our results are, they can always be improved. So, we continually work to make enhancements in our processes to help as many students as possible reach their educational and career goals.

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    Rend Lake College has participated in several Pathways to Results projects over the last five years. The PTR model has been an essential tool to help us understand how to make and drive evidence-based changes throughout our College. RLC views this model as an important and worthwhile method of helping identify potential issues and create positive solutions for our students’ benefit.

    During our PTR Project last year, we were given the opportunity to use the PTR Model to evaluate our processes related to a measure that fell below state goals—Student Retention and Transfer—in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) world, this is referred to as the Perkins “3P1” measure. After we developed and engaged our team, we compiled and disaggregated data on a cohort of high school students who had taken CTE dual credit courses, and began to focus our efforts on identifying potential barriers for those students who did not persist to completion.  This included using our quantitative data, but also talking to and surveying students.

    A few unexpected opportunities for improvement emerged.

    First, we discovered that nearly 6% of students who did not persist or transfer had actually completed at least a certificate, but never received it. We also discovered that an even higher percentage of students were within one semester of completing a degree or certificate in these pathways. This was staggering to us. These numbers combined to represent a total of 20% of the students we are losing being somewhere between one form (application for graduation) or one semester away from completion!

    We took our exploration a bit further and began to talk to students individually and were reminded of the many obstacles to completion, including financial ones that could arise from personal, health, or academic troubles. We found that many students leave RLC owing the college money.  A large portion of these students had received a reduction in the financial aid distribution due to non-attendance. The resulting fees act as a barrier to reenrollment after students have overcome whatever issue resulted in their need to stop out.

    Our team worked on developing strategies to improve our processes in response to these findings. Our goal was to find ways to identify and award degrees to students who may have completed a certificate or degree but had not applied for graduation, as well as developing a method of identifying and supporting students who might be struggling academically or financially early enough in a semester to offer them timely support. We are also exploring strategies for using the degree audit process to feed into a program for reengaging students within one semester of completion.

    These findings led us to propose an Automated Degree Audit reporting system, and a more proactive, timely Early Alert process. These two systems are the focus of RLC’s PTR Year 2 project. We have begun working on creating both solutions and are excited to evaluate the results.  

    The Pathways to Results model is a great way to facilitate positive changes that are driven by a focus on equitable outcomes for students. If you have never participated in the PTR process, or have only done so once, you are missing out. The benefits for students make the PTR process worth the time and effort involved.

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    Kristina Shelton serves as the Coordinator of Perkins at Rend Lake College. RLC has completed four PTR projects. 

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  • Implementing a Military Transitions Program to Serve Veterans and Service Members

    According to the 2015 Census, over 200,000 veterans live in Kansas, representing almost 7% of the population in the state.  The Technical Retraining to Achieve Credentials (TRAC-7) consortium created a Military Transition Program to serve unemployed, underemployed, and transitioning Kansas veterans and service members.. TRAC-7, led by Washburn University, was composed of seven Kansas community and technical colleges and funded through a Round 1 TAACCCT grant. The newest Strategies for Transformative Change brief provides information on the design and implementation of TRAC-7’s Military Transitions Program, including key factors that facilitated the implementation of the program, along with key factors for effectively serving veteran populations, and strategies for stakeholder engagement. This project was facilitated by a Military Transitions Director hired by TRAC-7 and is being continued through Kansas Technical Retraining Among Industry-targeted Networks (KanTRAIN). KanTRAIN is funded by a Round 4 TAACCCT grant and consists of four Kansas community and technical colleges.  

    Learn more, read Implementing a Implementing a Military Transitions Program.

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  • Service Learning for Engaged Work-Based Learning

    Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations, Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) provides students with opportunities to grow as professionals and serve their communities. All 16 Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) colleges, including WCTC, received a Round Three TAACCCT grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for the project entitled, Intentional Networks Transforming Effective and Rigorous Facilitation of Assessment, Collaboration, and Education (INTERFACE). INTERFACE is working to strategically align colleges, workforce development, statewide educational systems, and businesses to strengthen computer skill competencies and expand pathways for students in information technology-related programs.

    One of the strategies being implemented by INTERFACE is work-based learning. Under this strategy, WCTC implemented a service-learning program that provides students with opportunities to put their technical and professional skills to test, while also allowing students to give back to the community and build a sense of civic engagement. In the first three semesters of a fully implemented service learning program, 60 students have participated in providing 3,092 hours of service to their community. Students express a gratitude for the opportunity to gain hands-on technical experience while also feeling a greater sense of commitment to the world around them.

    For more information on the WCTC’s work with Service Learning, read Service Learning for Engaged Work-Based Learning

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