Since 2000, Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, has been working systematically to improve student success—an effort that has paid off with much higher completion rates. In fact, last week, Inside Higher Ed recognized the college for its impressive 75% increase (24 percentage points) of completions between 2003 and 2013. This accomplishment was made possible by the use of data, cooperation of faculty and staff, and a lot of trial and error.
Sinclair Community College has tried over 100 completion-related projects, ranging from making new student orientation mandatory to reducing the number of credits required to complete certain degree programs. Career Coach, EMSI’s software that helps students determine which careers are right for them and how those opportunities relate to education, is an important element of the college’s completion plan.
Each initiative fits into at least one of seven categories: teaching & learning, K-12 partnerships, student support services, student orientation & advising, student engagement, streamlining the pathway to a degree, and career exploration & workforce connections (the latter is where Career Coach fits in).
The reason Sinclair has gone through such a vast array of projects is that it is not afraid to nix them if they don’t show positive results:
Kathleen Cleary, Sinclair’s associate provost for student success, said the college dropped its experimentation with learning communities—where students work together in group-based learning.
“Maybe we just didn’t resource them the right way,” she said. “It wasn’t working. We pulled the plug.”
That sort of sober honesty appears to have helped with faculty buy-in to the college’s completion push.
This willingness to “pull the plug” helps Sinclair avoid initiative fatigue, assures faculty members that these projects are in the best interest of the college and its students, and confirms that the projects that make up the completion plan work in measurable ways.
According to Sinclair’s completion plan, the college believes the use of Career Coach will create a seamless pathway between instruction and workforce development and will increase employment of students upon graduation. The plan notes, “Career Coach provides the mechanism to highlight the most current labor market data available aligned with the degree programs at Sinclair.”