In the quest to increase completion rates, individual two-year colleges may implement a myriad of reforms, initiatives and programs on their campuses. But too often these efforts are isolated. Helping the greatest number of students earn postsecondary credentials requires broad-scale change—at institutions, across their college systems and beyond.
Collaboration among community and technical colleges at the system level is critical to bring effective innovations to scale and sustainability, so we made a grant to establish a Student Success Center for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). A Student Success Center is a statewide hub that provides a common vision for student persistence and completion, coordinates the colleges' activities, represents them in state-level policy advocacy, and ensures that all college across the state benefit from lessons learned on how to help more students earn degrees and credentials.
JFF manages the Student Success Center Network, providing technical assistance and encouraging collaboration. These centers not only provide cross-college engagement within a state, they also form a cross-state learning community for sharing effective approaches in practice, research and policy to dramatically improve completion outcomes.
Through the WTCS Student Success Center, the 16 system colleges are learning from and building on work at their neighboring and peer institutions. They have access to shared resources, opportunities to develop a coherent strategy and align implementation, a collective voice in state policy discussions, and support to scale evidence-based practices statewide.
The primary objectives of the WTCS Student Success Center include:
Refining data infrastructure and dissemination to best drive student-focused, data-based decisions
Establishing a community of practice to broaden and accelerate the use of proven, high-impact student success strategies
Aligning state and national completion initiatives
Leveraging the knowledge and experience available through the JFF Student Success Center Network
In 2017-18, the first academic year of Center operations, all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges focused on guided pathways reform and created cross-functional teams to lead the work. Maintaining their momentum, WTCS has held two Student Success Summits with JFF staff, and Achieving the Dream is supporting each institution with customized coaching.
Grant funds allowed the Center to purchase and implement software that provides visibility to student success data by institution (e.g., graduation, completion, transfer rates, etc.), as well as broader student outcomes such as GPA, semester-to-semester persistence, credit momentum and key courses completed. A wide variety of college staff are using the data to inform their work including institutional researchers, administrators, diversity services staff and grant writers. JFF reports that the Center’s decision to prioritize data reform is leading the way among Student Success Centers nationwide.
NATIONAL STUDENT SUCCESS CENTER NETWORK
Contact Program Officer Carolynn Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.