Bringing College Success to Scale: Promoting Pathways at Hillsborough Community College

by Karen Griffin / Apr 14, 2014

After recently presenting a breakout session at the Scaling Up Pathways to Results 2014 conference, OCCRL asked Karen Griffin to share more about the work being done at Hillsborough Community College.

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) is an Achieving the Dream (ATD) Leader College with a history of increasing support for student success. HCC is committed to the adoption of a completion agenda designed to reduce the loss of momentum students may experience at entry into the College and during progress with their degrees. Data indicate that students who are placed into remedial coursework experience considerable loss of momentum during their first term, and HCC is working on identifying all loss of momentum points in an effort to increase student retention and success. In 2012, in support of the completion agenda, HCC’s Student Success, Retention, and Placement Committee recommended bringing a course to scale: SLS 1501 College Success. Bringing the course to scale translates into making the course a requirement for all First-Time-in-College (FTIC) students to take during their first term. Term-to-term and year-to-year retention data collected since fall 2004 demonstrate increased persistence among students who take SLS 1501 versus those who do not. Coupled with the course requirement will be an intrusive advising approach that ensures students are developing educational plans, entering programs of study during their first term, and staying with their choice. Jenkins and Cho1 emphasize the importance of students identifying a program of study, entering it within their first year, and adhering to it.

Photo courtesy of Hillsborough Community College

From one of many options to the requirement

Currently, SLS 1501 is one option among the student life skills course options required of all students who, at entry into HCC, place into developmental education courses, whether or not they are FTIC students. The positive impact the course has on student retention provides the strongest argument for making the course the requirement for all FTIC students. The course requires students to develop an achievable academic plan and to refine the skills needed to become master students. HCC is developing customized versions of the course for students who need to choose a major and contextualized versions of the course for discipline-specific areas such as allied health and nursing, business, STEM, social and behavioral sciences, and English, arts and humanities curricular areas. To assist in this endeavor, faculty are updating academic program tracks, which includes expansion of the “pre-major” tracks for the Associate in Arts degree. To provide additional institutional support, HCC’s six principles supporting student success2 (adapted from Terry O’Banion’s Six Principles that Support Student Success) include as the second principle the SLS 1501 mandate partnered with the development of an academic plan. The principles that HCC adopted are as follows:

  1. Every student enrolled in the A.A. degree or an A.S. degree program will undergo mandatory orientation.
  2. Every FTIC student will be enrolled in SLS 1501 College Success and will develop an academic plan.
  3. Every degree-seeking student will be placed in a program of study from day one.
  4. Every student will be monitored throughout the first term, and interventions will occur to help students be successful in their first-term courses.
  5. All decisions regarding policies, programs, practices, processes and personnel will be based on evidence to the extent possible
  6. Professional development will focus on providing opportunities for faculty to learn new strategies and strengthen existing approaches to maximize student success and completion as the highest priority.

Bringing SLS 1501 to scale requires a “one-college,” united approach to the endeavor. To bring the course to scale, HCC will have to provide considerably more sections of the course than are currently being offered. In fall 2012, 69 sections of the course were offered. If all FTIC students were accommodated, approximately 215 sections would have been needed. The College will also need to align resources to ensure that adequate support is provided in terms of academic services such as supplemental instruction, learning communities, and summer bridge programs.

Effective advising is also a critical part of the completion agenda. Integral to bringing SLS 1501 to scale is the deployment of the College’s online advising module, which FTIC students will use to develop their academic plans as a requirement of SLS 1501. Advisors will work with students to evaluate, refine, and update academic plans developed in the course with the use of the online advising tool. Combining the three strategies of (a) on-line advising technology with (b) intrusive advising within the requirements of the (c) SLS 1501 course leverages the abilities of all three to enhance student success at HCC. We are committed to sharing what works and what does not work with bringing SLS 1501 to scale, and we would like to hear from others who are pursuing this approach.

OCCRL wants to hear from you.  What do you think about Dr. Griffin’s perspective?   Do you agree?  Please share your thoughts with her and other OCCRL readers.

Karen Griffin is director of the Associate in Arts programs at Hillsborough Community College, with more than 24 years at HCC. As co-chair of the Student Success Committee for the past four years, she has worked closely with faculty to assess data related to student success and identify strategies to help students navigate the educational paths at HCC.

1. Jenkins, D. & Cho, S.W. (2012) Get With the Program: Accelerating Community College Students’ Entry into and Completion of Programs of Study  (CCRC Working Paper No. 32). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.
2. O’ Banion, Terry. Principles for Student Success. Retrieved electronically on March 17, 2014 at DESIGNS