In recent years, it has been difficult to miss the emphasis placed on the importance of college degree or certificate completion. Many statistics and studies have been quoted outlining the benefits to individual students, society and the economy. It is the benefits to the economy that have garnered the attention of federal and state officials who are exploring new financial incentives and penalties to encourage completion.
Illinois is one of 33 states plus the District of Columbia to demonstrate commitment to completion by joining the alliance of states as part of Complete College America. Established in 2009, Complete College America is a national nonprofit that works with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.
Complete College America studies suggest several factors that may contribute to students’ challenges in completing their degree or certificate. According to their research, many students find themselves overwhelmed by the vast array of choices when making their college decisions. An increasing number of degree choices and customizations along with more course locations and delivery options leave students confused. Those who do not take full advantage of advising and other support may leave college or delay graduation taking courses not required for their major. Additionally, many students are unprepared for college academics and experience delays through pre-college, developmental-level courses.
Waubonsee Community College and other institutions are addressing these barriers to success. Steps thus far have included a review and streamlining of program course requirements, adding more support throughout the student experience and collaborating with school districts to better prepare students for college-level work.
At Waubonsee, we accepted the challenge to increase the number of our graduates before it became a national priority. This head start is showing results as the college has seen record numbers of students completing degrees each of the past five years. The class of 2013 was our largest ever, with 2,056 students earning a degree or certificate. Each of these graduates represent additional contributing members of our community who will either enter the workforce or continue their education.
One of the main goals of higher education has always been to contribute to society by equipping individuals with the knowledge to effectively participate in the governance of our country and its workforce. Waubonsee and other institutions actively seek to partner with their students to reach their full potential through completion of a degree or certificate and we have seen tremendous success.