Posted on April 7, 2014

President: Unclear programs lead
students to transfer, drop out

Laramie County Community College’s graduation rate is the lowest in Wyoming as of 2011.

According to completecollege.org, Complete College America has built an alliance of states taking bold actions to increase significantly the number of students successfully completing college.

In 2012, the state of Wyoming joined CCA.

The president of LCCC, Dr. Joe Schaffer, said, “Complete College Wyoming is only one year into existence, but we have committed to a goal to increase the number of credentials produced by 5 percent.”

“The LCCC Board of Trustees approved a new strategic plan for the institution last semester,” Schaffer said. “I think CCW and LCCC’s strategies are very much aligned, and the most important duty for both is continuing to drive both the state as well as institutions like LCCC in the same direction.”

According to the executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, Dr. Jim Rose, LCCC’s course completion, or enrollee success rates, are as follows:

Reasons behind the numbers

“The first reason LCCC’s completion rates are low is our proximity to four major universities. Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado, University of Wyoming and Chadron State,” Schaffer said. “I think that we have a lot of students that complete one year of general education and then leave, so they don't graduate, and they don’t look like a successful completion.”

Schaffer said LCCC has room to grow as a campus in ensuring students complete a credential.

“The second reason is that LCCC has a high transfer out rate,” Schaffer said. “LCCC’s programs are not designed clearly enough for students to navigate all the way through, so students transfer or drop out.”

The most recent policy to help with completion, which went in place spring 2014, is the policy and procedures on degrees and certificates.

The intent of the policy and procedures is to check LCCC’s programs so the pathway is clear for students to know exactly where they need to be and what classes they need to take.

“This is significant because for the first time on our campuses, it really defines what a degree is, and what the purpose of an associate’s degree or certificate program is,” Schaffer said. “What we’re finding in the research is that many students who come to a community college need to see a clear pathway through their program, and if students don’t understand the process, they will just swirl through our degree program.”

Originally, the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee recommended $9 million in one-time funding during this year’s legislative session.

It was successfully amended to add another $5.3 million, and now $14.3 million will be divided among the seven colleges based on completion rates.  

$14.3 million awarded for successful course completion

“There’s a language within the budget that awards the $14.3 million based on the volume of successful course completion,” Schaffer said. “In other words, they look at all the classes that all the seven community colleges offer, and then they look at how many of the enrollments succeeded.”

LCCC will receive a percent of the $14.3 million based upon passing grades it produces.

“Our course completions have come up this last year because we are the largest campus, and it is based on volume,” Schaffer said. “We believe that we’re moving in the right direction, and I believe LCCC will get one of the largest chunks of that $14.3 million.”

“Completion rates can show a negative impact on the campus because they show LCCC students as unsuccessful, but if a student receives, for example, 36 credits here and can transfer them to a university, that is a good thing,” Schaffer said.  

Schaffer said low completion rates do not hurt students. LCCC is working on a general education core that will have a way to transcript and award a credential for a student’s completion of those general education courses.

“There still are things LCCC needs to do to make it better for the ‘institution,’” Schaffer said. “Students still get value out of their courses even though they may not graduate here.”


Other content
in special section:

Major regressions
in scholarships cause
dissonance for music program

Gen ed trims fat from core

Enrollment rise expected
despite dropping rate

Lab hours change to help
students complete faster