The “Completion Agenda” is a not a federal mandate with defined implementation parameters, but rather a call for post-secondary educators to focus on college completion as a way to begin to close the skills gap and positively impact the United States’ economy. As a former community college administrator and faculty member, I am in full support of college completion. However, as I research the “Completion Agenda,” I seem to have more questions than answers:
1) If community college educators have not been focused on helping students complete courses, programs, and degrees, exactly what have we been doing?
2) Will policymakers/educators establish a universal definition of completers/completion?
3) How will completion be measured for the “Completion Agenda?”
4) Will a common data system be developed for reporting and data mining?
5) Will funding be available for all states to develop statewide data systems?
6) By 2020, President Obama wants the U.S. to become the nation with the highest number of college graduates. Will getting a “degree” or “credential” prepare students for the jobs that will be in demand?
7) Is it realistic to think that we can achieve a 50 percent increase in completion which equates to 5 million additional community college graduates by 2020?
8) Should graduating with a degree or credential be the gold standard for completion? Many times, students accomplish their goals, but they do not receive a degree or credential.
9) Students must be advised in such a way that enables them to meet their individual goals while also supporting institutional completion goals. Do community colleges need to develop new, different, or more comprehensive advising services?
10) What additional strategies should community colleges implement that will result in higher completion rates?
11) Will community colleges be rewarded financially for completion? Many current funding models reward enrollment, but there are only a few states currently working on performance/outcome-based funding models.
12) What types of financial and human resources will colleges need to manage this “Completion Agenda?” Is this an unfunded mandate?
13) When can community colleges expect national policy that focuses specifically on completion?
14) Who will be accountable for tracking national “Completion Agenda” progress?
15) Who will be accountable if the “Completion Agenda” fails?
16) When the Presidential Administration changes, what will happen to this initiative?
Almost two years into the completion agenda conversation, I remain cautiously optimistic. Student success is my top priority, and I am guessing that holds true for most community college educators. It will take open communication, patience, strong partnerships, and a great deal of collaboration to make a positive difference for our students. I am up for the challenge. Are you?
CCLP Block #66