From an opinion/editorial written by Dr. Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, published on June 6, 2010, in The Greenville News.
At a recent meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges, much discussion was devoted to President Obama's goal of producing five million more graduates from the nation's two-year colleges over the next decade.
Currently, two-year colleges enroll close to half of all undergraduate students. The problem is that not enough of those students complete the programs in which they enroll. Why does that happen? At Greenville Technical College, accurate answers to that question are critical to student success. By using data to determine where roadblocks happen and working to remove those issues, students can achieve.
Greenville Technical College's involvement with the Achieving the Dream initiative is important because this national effort is aimed at helping more students finish what they start. If these students can enroll, make progress, persist from term to term, and graduate, they improve their own lives and they improve our community as well, becoming productive citizens who contribute to a healthy economy.
Achieving the Dream data collected nationwide shows that success is improved when students attend a face-to-face orientation. This experience can set the tone for everything that follows. As a result, Greenville Technical College has recently moved from an online orientation to a face-to-face orientation where all new students have the chance to connect with others at the college before they ever attend class.
Greenville Technical College has also implemented an application deadline. Studies show that those who enroll in classes last are often the first to fail. With a deadline, students have time to purchase books and supplies, make arrangements for child care, establish work schedules that accommodate class requirements, and adequately prepare for a successful semester.
Achieving the Dream aims to improve student success through three major strategies. The Shining Star Merit program, targeting African American males, will include intrusive advising, tutoring, and mentoring by both college and community leaders. Secondly, a 12-day, intensive Math Immersion effort will improve placement and performance of students testing into developmental math courses. Finally, a First Year Experience program is designed to engage students early in the process and encourage their retention through a face-to-face orientation, the development of a long-range educational plan, and a required course that teaches college skills such as time management and effective studying techniques.
A Title III Strengthening Institutions grant that Greenville Technical College received from the U.S. Department of Education has allowed creation of an effort called "Unlock Your Future," that works hand in hand with Achieving the Dream to improve student success. Thanks to Title III funds, the college has been able to concentrate on the developmental courses many students are required to take and to add academic coaching, individual and group tutoring, workshops, and supplemental instruction, creating a strong foundation for student success.
President Obama's goal to improve graduation rates is Greenville Technical College's goal as well, and it aligns with the college mission of driving personal and economic growth through learning. To fulfill that mission and in doing so improve people's lives by seeing that they enter the workforce armed with a solid education, Greenville Technical College must change the way it operates. Getting students enrolled is not enough. Retaining those students until they graduate is the college's priority. Greenville Technical College will continue to seek ways to engage students, support students, and graduate well-qualified individuals who are prepared for success in a global economy.