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Texas Completes announces strategies for student success

HOUSTON (July 31, 2012) – Lone Star College System and its Texas community college partners are moving from planning into implementation with their statewide student success and credential completion effort called “Texas Completes.”

The group is announcing its initial action plan and strategy for transforming the Texas community college completion rate with the findings of its first year of collaboration.  These bold, innovative initiatives are being implemented by the five Texas Completes partners as a first step in the effort to create a unified student pathway to success and include:

·         Revising the curriculum to swiftly get students into programs of study, streamline time to degree, and facilitate transfer to four-year institutions.

·         Creating a comprehensive student advising and management system that ensures students a strong start and consistent feedback along each step of their way through college.

·         Restructuring developmental education to reduce time spent in pre-collegiate coursework.

With its planning phase funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under the former initiative Texas Completion by Design, the new Texas Completes initiative will move ahead with the financial support of state and regional funders.

The Texas Completes team has been working this past year to identify community college policies and procedures that hinder student success and develop solutions to eliminate barriers. The Texas Completes project is led by Lone Star College System, and the partners include Alamo Colleges, Dallas County Community College District, El Paso Community College and South Texas College. This group of five colleges enrolls 289,000 students – more than 1/3 of all community college students in Texas and 20 percent of all Texas undergraduate college students.

“This project is critical to the future of Texas,” said Dr. Richard Carpenter, LSCS chancellor and incoming chairman for Texas Association of Community Colleges. “Our cadre remains intact and will move forward as “Texas Completes” continuing to frame the statewide completion agenda and leading efforts to significantly improve Texas post-secondary student success.”

“The momentum and coherence across Texas as a result of our 18 months of collaborative work is profound and we are determined to succeed,” said Dr. Carpenter. “Groups are working together throughout Texas like never before – our community colleges, universities, the Texas Association of Community Colleges, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, philanthropic groups. Even the Texas legislature is rallying around the work of Texas Completes and our focus on student success.”

 “Much of the work has already been done and we have the chance to make a significant positive impact on higher education in Texas,” said Dr. Carpenter. “I am excited that the other cadre institutions have elected to have Lone Star College continue to serve in the overall coordinating role and lead this effort for Texas Completes.”

Enrollment has surged in Texas community colleges as the recession caused many Texans to return to school for additional training and education, at a cost they can afford. Community colleges also are evolving to serve today's non-traditional students, who often are older, have children and work full- or part-time to support families while attending school to obtain a degree or credential.

Increasing college success and completion rates is important for students, the economy and the country. A recent 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 and the labor market will be short 3 million educated workers over the next eight years.

A key element to Texas Completes is its statewide policy board that serves to cultivate a receptive environment for reform and create momentum for scale throughout the state.  Part of the board’s charge is to help identify and mitigate policy and funding challenges that are barriers to student success. 

The board is comprised of state and field stakeholders representing education (K-16), business and labor, as well as nonprofits and philanthropy. This groundbreaking group of leaders represents a powerful collaboration of entities that have never before worked together to advocate for policy changes affecting community colleges and their students. Members include both the House and Senate Higher Education Committee chairs, the Texas Workforce Commission, THECB, TACC, the Texas Association of Business, Greater Houston Partnership, University of Texas, Houston Endowment and Greater Texas Foundation, and is chaired by Dr. Richard Rhodes, president of Austin Community College. The board had its first meeting on March 20, where the members determined the key policy areas of focus: Transfer and Articulation, Developmental Education, and Performance Based Funding.

Dr. Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the THECB, said the THECB is fully supportive of the Texas Completes effort and the work of its cadre of five community colleges going forward.

“We know that for Texas to become a national and international leader in education by 2030 – which is one of our goals – it must accelerate its efforts,” Paredes said. “Texas Completes creates an important framework for alignment on that strategy and we are eager to work with the cadre on advancing this important agenda.”

Rey Garcia, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said that TACC supports the completion strategy being developed by this group of community colleges.

“Texas Completes is embarking on broad-based systemic change efforts to dramatically improve student success and completion,” said Garcia. “Its work benefits Texas by creating an infrastructure to build consensus among diverse organizations for large-scale student success reform that we will share with other colleges across the state.”   

Since being awarded the initial planning support from the Gates Foundation in September, the Texas cadre working teams – more than 175 faculty, staff and administrators – have been working tirelessly on the planning phase. From analyzing the data and leading student focus groups, to conducting workshops and completing faculty surveys, the group is committed to identifying best practice models and creating unified student pathways to completion that will increase student success across the board, according to Dr. Carpenter.

“We continue to push forward as a group to design the best completion pathway for all Texas students.  Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said Dr. Carpenter.

With 75,000 students in credit classes, and a total enrollment of more than 90,000, Lone Star College System is the fastest-growing community college system in the nation and the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area. Dr. Richard Carpenter is the chancellor of LSCS, which consists of six colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, LSC-Tomball and LSC-University Park, five centers, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.