Program stimulates collaborative efforts, academic outcomes

Ten more schools are joining a project that encourages community colleges to design programs that support academics and boost learning outcomes, thanks to a grant from the MetLife Foundation.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) recently announced the addition to its Developing a Community College Student Roadmap Projectwhich is a part of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.

The Roadmap Project encourages community colleges to design practical programs that offer effective academic support and improve learning outcomes. By modifying preexisting academic programs, or creating news ones, administrators can not only optimize student success rates in their coursework, but also help students develop skills that will benefit them long into their career paths.

In particular, the project aims to bridge the gap between on-campus student support groups and college-based support groups. By combining student and faculty resources, all stakeholders can potentially benefit, project supporters say.

(Next page: How Roadmap colleges are advancing their academic programs)

“We are pleased to continue our support for the significant Roadmap Project,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “This ambitious, collaborative work led by the AAC&U is important for the participating colleges, the success of their students, and for all of higher education.”

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Two years ago, 12 community colleges worked within the project to develop integrated institutional models to enhance student success. Through collaborative efforts, these colleges are benefiting from their experiences to create a feasible roadmap to success for all community college students.

The original Roadmap community colleges are:

The AAC&U website outlines many of these institutions’ contributions to the Roadmap Project, and includes their plans for the future.

One such example is Gainesville State College in Oakwood, Ga., which defines a successful student as “a self-motivated learner who uses knowledge effectively to solve real world problems” in its “Get HIP!” (high-impact practices) plan. High-impact practices are defined as activities that deepen student learning and engagement, raise levels of performance, retention and success for all students, are intellectually engaging, and incorporate effective educational practices.

“As a set of purposeful learning experiences, HIPs have the potential to lead students to the knowledge, abilities, and habits of mind that are essential for life and livelihood in the 21st century global society,” the HIP manual explains.

The college divided high-impact experiences into three platforms: undergraduate research, diversity and global learning, and service learning. Students are encouraged to take advantage of internship and capstone-course projects at the senior level, and community-based service at the freshman level.

The action plan outlines Gainesville State College’s goals for ensuring that its students aim for the brass ring, while acknowledging the realistic barriers that the administration may encounter while actively promoting on-campus change.

Other thoroughly-explored topics in the action plan include opportunities for support within the college’s administration, communications strategies, and evaluations regarding how the college with determine program success.

Miami Dade College is another original Roadmap member that continues to emphasize its belief that student involvement in the community will lead to academic success. Its programs are outlined here:

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These types of thoughtful planning models are what AAC&U believes will help individual students and community colleges achieve lasting success. Additional collaborations amongst the cohort’s administrators will potentially benefit the country as a whole.

“One of the greatest benefits of this project has been the knowledge-sharing among a community of educators not only dedicated to asking the difficult questions, but also to implementing change as a result of inquiry and reflection,” said Tia Brown McNair, senior director for Student Success. “The Roadmap institutions demonstrate a sustained commitment to completion and quality.”

The 10 newly-added Roadmap community colleges endured a rigorous evaluation process led by national leaders who examined their plans to implement evidence-based research and improve their colleges’ academic outcomes.

“Each Roadmap institution will work to ensure that its student success programs are integrated with, and reinforced by, its own educational culture,” the AAC&U release reads. “Institutions will develop and coordinate practices and policies that support engaged learning, provide meaningful assessment data about student learning outcomes, and help build a community of support for high achievement.”

The newest inductees to the Roadmap group are:

“The newly-selected Roadmap campuses will join a distinguished group of 12 institutions that are leaders in improving community college student success,” said McNair.

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