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Kimberly McKay

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Increasing IPEDS Graduation Rate by Focusing on Eligible Cohorts Community colleges are funded by three primary sources: tuition & fees, a tax base and contact hour reimbursement. The contact hour reimbursement is a state calculation based on the number of student contact hours on the colleges census date. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the legislature are considering funding alternatives based on student success and completion. As a result, community colleges graduation rates, as calculated by IPEDS, the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System, are being scrutinized. IPEDS was originally designed as a way for institutions to monitor the performance of collegiate athletes; however, now it is applied to all institutions. Rather than lament on the IPEDS graduation rate and who is and is not included, South Texas College must focus on the students that can positively affect the rate: first-time, full-time, degree seeking students who enter as new students in a summer or fall term. The action research report will review that a laser focus on students who can affect the graduation rate produces results. According the THECB South Texas College now has the highest graduation rate of similar sized institutions in the state of Texas. This year, because of potential changes in the way community colleges are funded, the institutional focus is graduation. The Cohort Success Initiative Taskforce and subsequent action research plan was formed to design and create a series of short-, intermediate- and long-term strategies for significantly improving the timely completion of degrees and/or certificates by the IPEDS designated graduation cohort. The fundamental question: how can we change our institutional practices to recruit, retain and graduate the students who can impact the IPEDS? South Texas College is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution with 94% Hispanic students (South Texas College, 2010). Statistics reveal that for every ten (10) Hispanic students that begin the first grade together, five (5) make it to ninth grade, two (2) make it to their senior

Kimberly McKay

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year and only one (1) of those students will graduation from college. Census Bureau data indicates that one-half of our population lives below the poverty level and one-half of the adult population over age 25 have less than a ninth grade education. The majority of our students are first generation, Spanish speaking and poor. They are the faces of the non-traditional students Page (2002) references in Technology Enriched Classrooms: Effects on Students of Low Socioeconomic Status. A college degree is the basic goal in education, and the U.S. labor market reinforces that expectation with substantial financial rewards. Unfortunately, Hispanics fall behind every population subgroup in attaining college degrees, especially bachelors degrees (Fry, 2002). In Texas, one (1) in four (4) white students who enter post-secondary education after high school graduate in six (6) years while one (1) in ten (10) Hispanics do the same (Houston Endowment, 2011). In a recent report released by Complete College America (2011), historic data have revealed a common thread: the longer it takes, the more life gets in the way of success. This is especially true for minority who struggle the most to graduate. The report indicates that too few students are graduating and that the graduation rates for part-time, minority students is abhorrent: only onequarter of part-time students graduate even when they have twice as much time. In Rising to the Challenge: Raising Hispanic Graduation Rates as a National Priority, authors Andrew P. Kelly, Mark Schneider, and Kevin Carey (2010) found that colleges and universities that do a better job graduating their Hispanic students typically have high completion rates across the board. The results suggest that institutional commitment to completion results in higher graduation rates. Colleges struggling to graduate Hispanic students can learn from the successes of other colleges. South Texas College is positioned to increase the educational attainment level of Hispanic students while focusing on increasing the IPEDS graduation rate while changing the culture and the climate at our institution and in throughout the region.

Kimberly McKay

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South Texas Colleges graduation headcount increased by 53% this year; however, the needle on our graduation rate, as defined by IPEDS, moved very little. This has been a unique challenge as per the IPEDS standard, only first-time, full-time, degree seeking students can impact the graduation rate cohort. First-time, full-time students are rare at most community colleges. The data tells us that the graduation rate will increase by 1% for every 19 IPEDS cohort eligible students who graduate; therefore, our focus should be on students who can move the IPEDS needle. Furthermore, we need to retool the message to emphasize the importance of degree completion before students reach 150% of their degree plan. How do we help students, faculty and staff begin with the end in mind? This action research plan was developed to be used as the implementation plan for the action research project and the Cohort Success Initiative. It demonstrates shared commitment and includes the goal statement, action steps, timeline, resources and evaluation components. It is similar to the Institutional Effective (IE) profile South Texas College uses to implement, evaluate, revise and institutionalize every new initiative. In addition, it includes the human and organizational resources required to reach the desired outcome. The plan will be used to drive taskforce meetings and provide formative as well as summative assessment for the initiative. The plan is fluid and can be modified should the formative assessments reveal new opportunities and/or challenges. The institutional goal is to double the graduation rate of the cohort students by implementing immediate and long term solutions for maintaining high completion rates for the cohorts over time.
Action Planning Template Goal: Create, develop and design strategies for the timely completion of degrees and/or certificates by the IPEDS graduation cohort. The institutional goal is to double the graduation rate of the cohort students by implementing immediate and long term solutions for maintaining high completion rates for the cohorts over time. Action Steps(s): Person(s) Responsible: Timeline: Start/End Needed Resources Evaluation Policy and Practice Division Leaders and Spring 2011 Board Policies Student satisfaction Review Deans Summer 2011 Review departmental policies and student Curriculum Officer Course Catalogs for each Cohort Increase in graduation applications and rate

Kimberly McKay
practices for barriers Identify IPEDS Cohort Graduates Designate Cohorts on Rosters Provide names and data of cohort students to Deans and Chairs Provide stakeholder with update on cohort performance Conduct Degree Audits for Cohort Eligible Students 2008 cohort Associate degree completion by August 2011 2009 cohort Associate degree completion by August 2012 2010 cohort Certificate degree completion by December 2011 Associate degree completion by August 2012 Send notices to all cohort students on their progress toward completion CAPP Degree Audit Training for Faculty, Staff and Students Circuit training for the degree audit feature on JagNet Train all student affairs staff to facilitate degree audit for students in campus Welcome Centers Develop training calendar for traditional and dual credit students Automate Graduation Application for Students Paperless (online) application process. Develop workflow to send email confirmation/notice of Registrar Information Services & Planning Complete by February 2, 2011 Ongoing for future cohorts

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Internet Native Banner ODS Clearinghouse

Report usage

Registrar

Student Success Specialists

Audit must be conducted one term prior cohort graduation to leverage registration Ongoing

Web CAPP

Increase in graduation applications and rate

Staff Office of Admissions and Records Staff Outreach

February 14 April 1, 2011 Ongoing for entering cohorts and dual credit students

Web CAPP Centers for Learning Excellence Welcome Centers Student Portal

Increased student, faculty and staff utilization

Division Leaders and Deans Curriculum Officer Registrar Webmaster

Complete by April 1, 2011

Web CAPP College Webpages

Increased application submission and time to award

Kimberly McKay
receipt/status to appropriate chair. Reverse Transfer Opt-In for current cohorts Apply Texas Streamline Course Substitutions Go paperless Mainstream common substitutions Market to Faculty, Staff and Students Introduce current and future initiatives Market value of associate degree completion to prospective and current students

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Registrar

Completed for 2010 cohort

Apply Texas

Monitor number of students who opt-in

Registrar Curriculum Officer Webmaster PR/Mktng Student Affairs outreach Webmaster

Summer 2011 Ongoing

Faculty/Staff Portal

Decreased time from application to award

Spring College-wide Professional Development Ongoing

Budget (?) Student Portal College Webpage

Increased graduation application and rate Increased dual credit matriculation

The action research template for Increasing IPEDS Graduation Rate by Focusing on Eligible Cohorts presents a cross-functional approach to student success and completion. Although the plan is led by Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, it is supported by all divisions in the college. Information Services and Planning will play an integral role in developing technology solutions to address current barriers in the graduation application and communication processes. Academic Affairs (faculty) relationship with students is critical to the success and motivation of students both in and outside of the classroom. Furthermore, the curriculum officer will address changes in degree plans and programs including course substitutions and accreditation compliance. Finally, Public Relations and Marketing will produce artwork and content to promote the value of an associate degree and the benefits of graduating on time. While community resources were not included in the plan, the community will benefit from the internal and external marketing campaign developed by Public Relations to further promote the value of attending community college and earning an associate degree at an affordable, accessible instiution that is close to home but far from ordinary. 5

Kimberly McKay

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The college and Cohort Success Initiative taskforce has worked to develop a deeper understanding of faculty, staff and student perceptions through review of policy and practice as well as focus group data. In addition, the Division of Student Affairs has engaged in self-reflection as we shift from access to success and completion. Until now success was relative and dependent on student intent; however, impacting the graduation rate will require the focus to shift once again. Now success equals completion/graduation. Furthermore, through this process, we will need to dissect the student registration patterns, and engage Academic Affairs in a discussion of degree plan course sequence. Finally, we must determine the direction by leveraging the institutional effectiveness team to establish the evaluation prior to implementation. An IE plan has been developed and the measure for assessment is clear: increase graduation rate; however, the IE plan will also measure graduation application yield and time to award. The IE plan will provide both formative and summative evaluation. Each of the action leaders is responsible for providing feedback and updates that are incorporated into the IE plan. Because the IPEDS definition requires students to complete their certificate and degree within 150% of degree plan, the data gathering will include students from 2008 cohort (associate degrees only), 2009 cohorts (certificate and associate degree students), and the 2010 cohort (all degrees). The IPEDS cohort only includes students who entered in the summer or fall terms as first-time, full-time students. All other first-time students will be excluded from the data. To date, research has included degree audits for students in the pipeline. This has allowed us to easily identify students who are nearing completion. In addition, these students will be asked to participate in focus groups to determine their perceptions regarding degree completion and the process in general. The findings both quantitative and qualitative will guide the solutions for the new, 2010 cohort.

Kimberly McKay

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The IPEDS definition requires students to complete their certificate and degree within 150% of degree plan, the data gathering will include the following student cohorts: 2008 cohort o Associate degree completion by August 2011 2009 cohort o Associate degree completion by August 2012 2010 cohort o Certificate degree completion by December 2011 o Associate degree completion by August 2012 The IPEDS cohort only includes students who entered in the summer or fall terms as first-time, full-time students. All other first-time students will be excluded from the data including: Dual enrollment students o Traditional o Academy Programs o Early College High Schools Part-time Students Transfer Students Returning Students Students Entering in Spring Students who in more 150% of degree plan to graduate

Historically, only 20-25% of the freshman class (first-time students) is considered IPEDS cohort eligible. Similarly, only 20% of the graduation class impacts the graduation rate each year. 7

Kimberly McKay

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STC Fall 2010 Student Enrollment Data Total Credit Student Headcount Returning Students Dual Credit Students Transfer Students Entering Class Not Seeking a Degree/Certificate Entering Class Part-time Entering Class IPEDS Eligible 2004 13.6% 223 1,492 2005 2006 13.9% 12.7% 188 1,961 212 1,236 2007 11.7% 201 1,879

29,054 14,843 9,293 1134 9 1422 2353 2008 2009 2010 13.0% 14.7% 17.3% 207 2,044 286 2,287 343 3,026

IPEDS Graduation Rate Graduates represented by the IPED Graduation Rate Total number of graduates

The Cohort Success Initiative action research plan was first introduced to faculty and staff during the fall 2010, college-wide professional development breakout sessions. The attendance was comprised mostly of staff who are directly involved in the data inquiry and validation. The colleges Research and Analytical Services team publishes research briefs for us to share with our colleagues as well as internal and external stakeholders. In addition, the division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management has submitted proposals to national conferences including AACRAOs Strategic Enrollment Management Conference and Achieving the Dreams Strategy Institute. The presentation, Increasing IPEDS Graduation Rate by Focusing on Eligible Cohorts. will include the preliminary finding of the action research plan. Finally, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has a comprehensive accountability system that allows colleges to compare themselves with other, similar size colleges. Changes in our rate will be reflected in the accountability system that is used to produce a report card for state legislators. Identifying students who are IPEDS eligible will be an ongoing process. The action research plan will facilitate the support and services we provide to these students to ensure 8

Kimberly McKay

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completion. In addition, it will allow us to identify, test, institutionalize and share solutions that have an impact on the graduation rate. The result and recommendations will inform the professional growth strategies needed to enable the institution to successfully realize the vision of success and completion for all. References Complete College America (2011). Time is the enemy. Washington DC. Fry, R. (2002). Latinos in higher education: Many enroll, too few graduate. Washington D.C.: Pew Hispanic Center. Hidalgo County, Texas. Educational Attainment Level 2005-2009. Retrieved March 3, 2011 from the US Census Bureau http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/STTable?_bm=y&-context=st&qr_name=ACS_2009_5YR_G00_S1501&-ds_name=ACS_2009_5YR_G00_&tree_id=5309&-redoLog=true&-_caller=geoselect&-geo_id=05000US48215&-format=&_lang=en Houston Endowment Inc. (2011). A new measure of educational success in Texas tracing he success of 8th graders into and through college. Retrieved April 17, 2012 from http://www.houstonendowment.org/assets/publicwebsite/document/news/measureofsuccess .pdf Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. (n.d.). IPEDS glossary. Available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Web site, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/glossary Page, M.S. (2002). Technology-enriched classrooms: Effects on students of low socioeconomic status. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(4), 289-409. Retrieved August 8, 2009 from the International Society of Education.

Kimberly McKay

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South Texas College. (n.d.). Fact Book. Retrieved September 11, 2011, from http://www.southtexascollege.edu Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2001). Closing the gaps: The Texas higher education plan 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2007, from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/pdf/0379.pdf Texas Higher Education Board (2004). Higher Education Accountability System. Retrieved March 18, 2007, from http://www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/Accountability/

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