OK. So here is where I get to voice my opinions in a semi-public way. When I look at the list of best practices that lead to community college completion, I see that a few of them are happening at BCC. But, as the attached article from Inside Higher Ed points out, colleges then have to make strategic decisions about scaling comprehensive evidence-based approaches. While we are engaged in some best practices, we have yet to scale them up, so our numbers remain small and too few students are, therefore, receiving the benefits.
If these “best practices” are voluntary for students, many will choose not to take advantage. This is especially true for students coming in with significant academic challenges. Often times, these students don’t have any idea what will help them to be successful. Why would they? It’s up to the college to require that students take advantage of these approaches because they work. They have proven themselves over and over to be effective strategies.
One example is first-year success classes. If students are asked to choose to take one of these classes, a small number will do so, but the majority will not. Then when we look at the data, the complaint is that our numbers are too small to make decisions. It’s a catch 22. We have to be willing to look at practices that work, not just on our campus, but nation-wide. This has been done with first-year success courses very extensively and thoroughly. Once we know what those practices are, we have to be willing to choose one or two and require them of all students or even for a particular group of students. This might mean making strategic decisions about where we will invest scarce time, money, and energy. Making hard decisions may mean cutting programs to scale up others.
Most students don’t do optional very well. We need to step up and make some hard decisions about requiring certain approaches to retention and completion that work.