LSCS selected as a national leader in boosting graduation rates, completion for students

Published on: May 26, 2011

Lone Star College selected as a national leader
in boosting graduation rates, completion for students

Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help replicate successes

HOUSTON (May 26, 2011) – Lone Star College System is leading a statewide effort intended to significantly increase the successful completion rates of community college students in Texas.

Nationally, Lone Star College is one of four colleges to receive a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after a rigorous application process that began last October at the White House Summit on Community Colleges.

Lone Star College is the managing partner of a Texas alliance selected to receive funding through the Gates Foundation’s five-year national Completion by Design initiative, which is designed to help students finish postsecondary education more quickly and with greater rates of success. LSCS organized the group of high-performing colleges for the “Texas Completion by Design” project that includes Alamo Colleges, Dallas County Community College District, El Paso Community College and South Texas College.  This group represents more than 235,000 students, one third of all community college students in Texas.

“The work from this grant has the capacity to forever change the educational landscape of community colleges in Texas and across the country,” said Dr. Richard Carpenter, LSCS chancellor. “Currently, colleges around the state are not in sync with their approach to student success and completion. Imagine what we can do as we all invest in the same program.”

This team of Texas colleges led by LSCS will work to transform community college policy and student success initiatives for the state. Completion by Design has the potential to significantly redesign higher education across the country and help increase college degree attainment in the U.S.

It is anticipated that all three phases of the Completion by Design project will take approximately five years to complete, starting with a $500,000 planning period – a time for the Texas partner schools to collectively review best practices, create a model pathway to completion and design an implementation plan. If the plan submitted by the Texas group in April 2012 is approved by the foundation, additional funding would be awarded for subsequent phases, including implementation and scaling of the program across other colleges in Texas.

The Gates Foundation grant will take college completion to the next level by focusing on the entire continuum of the student experience from start to finish. To help accomplish this, the foundation required applicants to partner with other agencies for policy and data responsibilities. The successful LSCS “Texas Completion by Design” program plan includes the Communities Foundation of Texas/Texas High School Project as the state policy lead and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as the state data lead. Working closely with the lead state agencies will allow for innovative changes and implementation of policies that will drastically increase the number of students completing post-secondary degrees or certification credentials in Texas.

Today, community colleges like Lone Star College serve nearly 11 million students, and enrollment has surged as the recession caused many Americans to return for additional training and education. Community colleges also are evolving to serve today’s students, who often are older and work full- or part-time to support families while attending school to obtain a degree or credential.

But too many students never finish. According to recent federal data, just 22 percent of first-time, full-time students in community college graduate in three years. For Hispanics and African-Americans, the rates are even worse, at 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

In Texas, only 10 percent of seventh-grade Hispanic students complete a college credential within six years after scheduled high school graduation. Seventy-one percent of all Hispanic enrollments in higher education in Texas are in community colleges – and more than half of those leave without a credential.

Solving this problem is important for students, the economy and the country. A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that, by 2018, 63 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. The report also shows that, without a dramatic change in course, the labor market will be short 3 million educated workers over the next eight years.

“We believe that today’s students – particularly low-income students – need smarter, more affordable postsecondary options that lead to high-quality outcomes,” said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation. “Completion by Design aims to give them that, and we are excited to support the innovative work being conducted in Texas.”

Winning this highly-competitive grant process is another example of the commitment that LSCS has to student success and results-focused educational initiatives. In March, LSCS was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to host a community college regional summit at its LSC-University Park campus, one of only four summits held nationwide.

This year, Lone Star College System achieved a 33 percent increase in its student graduations, and it also boasts 100 percent pass rates for students taking their national and state exams in areas such as in nursing, radiologic technology, occupational therapy, pharmacy technology,  veterinary technology, firefighting, criminal justice (police officers) and dental hygiene.

As the managing partner for Texas, Lone Star College has demonstrated its commitment to using evidence-based best practices for improving student outcomes; a long history of using innovative technology to increase student achievement and experience using data to make informed practice and policy changes.  To learn more about Texas Completion by Design, go to TexasCompletion.com

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About Lone Star College System
With more than 69,000 students in credit classes for spring 2011, and a total enrollment of more than 85,000, Lone Star College System is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area, and the fastest-growing community college system in Texas. Dr. Richard Carpenter is the chancellor of LSCS, which consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Park, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people – especially those with the fewest resources – have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/ or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.