[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 10th of this year, was our #10 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2019 countdown!]
I’ve spent most of my career in the community college setting and much of that time has been as president of Warren County Community College (WCCC), a smaller New Jersey institution less than two hours from New York City.
A benefit to leading at a smaller school like WCCC is the opportunity to try new things, even radical things—without some of the challenges that might come when initiating change at a large institution.
One of my main goals at WCCC—and a goal of all types of institutions—is increasing the graduation rate. Community colleges nationwide have set a goal to reach a 50-percent graduation rate. We’ve undertaken a few initiatives at WCCC that have helped us more than double graduation rates, and many of these initiatives can be replicated on other campuses.
4 steps to improving graduation rates
Step 1: Remove remediation
At WCCC, we took a bold first step in our quest to improve graduation rates. By abolishing remedial courses, we immediately saw our graduation rates double. Remedial courses often become a trap for community college students—few actually complete the courses and those that don’t are gated from the credit-bearing courses they need for their degree. Of course, this not a decision that is made lightly, and there are critics on both sides of the equation, but the immediate positive impact on graduation rates is undeniable.