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Lake Area Technical College Chosen for Aspen College Report that Details How Nation’s Most Effective Community Colleges Improve Outcomes for Low-Income and Minority Students

Posted on: June 23, 2016   |   Category: News
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Strategic partnerships with high schools, four-year universities, and employers pay off with higher graduation rates and family-sustaining careers for underserved students who often fall through the cracks

Washington, DC, June 23, 2016 – The Aspen College today released a new evidence-based report designed to help more community colleges across the country close the achievement gap and lift more low-income students out of poverty and into self-sustaining careers. The Aspen report, Structural Equity: Big-Picture Thinking & Partnerships that Improve Community College Student Outcomes, describes how Lake Area Technical College of Watertown, SD and three other community colleges have achieved exceptional and improving outcomes for students while also narrowing or eliminating success gaps among students of various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. The full report is available online at: http://as.pn/1h5.

The report calls for all community colleges to engage in “big-picture” thinking that redefines student success beyond access or completion. “For students who have faced a lifetime of limited opportunities, the ability to enroll does not translate into equal opportunity for success when it comes to completion, graduation, transfer or career opportunity,” said Josh Wyner, executive director at the Aspen College’s College Excellence Program and co-author of the guide. “The most effective community colleges not only graduate large numbers of students from underserved communities but also pave their way to good career opportunities. And they do so by working intentionally beyond the campus walls to create a seamless educational pathway for students.”

The guide highlights the success of four community colleges in the nation that are the driving force behind robust, cross-sector partnerships that include elementary, middle and high schools, four-year universities and employers, and take into account their unique needs as well as those of the students enrolled on their campuses.

The report profiles the community colleges that are reversing the trends of educational and economic disparity in their communities through such big-picture thinking and strategic partnerships:

  • El Paso Community College (TX) – Close partnerships with local high schools have resulted in 74% of El Paso’s high school seniors who participate in early college programs graduating with an associate’s degree and a high school diploma, nearly double the rate for students in similar programs nationwide.
  • Lake Area Technical College (SD) – Using data to focus on the needs of low-income students has resulted in the complete elimination of graduation rate disparities between Pell Grant-eligible students and non-Pell students. In 2015, Pell students even outperformed non-Pell students with a graduation rate of 84% compared to 79% respectively.
  • Santa Barbara City College (CA) – Partnering with local school districts to build college aspirations and improve curricular alignment between high school and college has resulted in far more students going to college, starting better prepared, and transferring to four-year colleges. This is especially true for the region’s growing population of first-generation Latino students.
  • Valencia College (FL) – A deep partnership with University of Central Florida (UCF) to create a seamless transfer experience has led to 64% of transfer students earning a bachelor’s degree within four years of transferring to UCF. Valencia has also increased associate degree completion rates of Latino students by more than 10 percentage points.