Columbia Basin College was recognized last year as one of the 55 best community colleges in the country. Judged against the Aspen Institute’s rigorous standards and tough peer review for outcomes in performance, improvement and equity, we rank in the upper echelon of the 1,800 institutions in the United States that award associate degrees.
While pleased to receive national recognition, we know that so much exciting work at continuous improvement still lies ahead. Whether we are developing a new program, asking for construction dollars or fundraising for scholarships, our mantra is “theory-based, data-informed and learning-focused.” The information revolution continues to expand, giving us big data and better tools for targeted interventions that affect student performance and allow us to learn new and better ways to help students achieve.
For example, students who come to us “college-ready” are pretty much the same students who attend any university, but our “non-college-ready” student population — the population uniquely served by community colleges — has hovered around a much lower retention and completion rate. To address this gap, we have developed a mandatory college success class for every student who does not place in college-level mathematics and English. As a direct result of this innovation, our fall-to-winter retention rate for this pre-college group has zoomed from about 70 percent to nearly 89 percent.
The retained tuition dollars let us hire Completion Coaches who create data-informed interventions that are changing the trajectory of hundreds of students through our institution.
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In one of many examples, our coaches identified 183 students with overall grade-point averages hovering just above 2.0 but whose GPA for the two previous quarters had slipped below 2.0. This is the trend line of a student who is headed to probation and, in too many cases, departure from the college. Coaches encouraged each student to access tutoring assistance, to seek counseling for personal problems, to check out a laptop through our loaner program, to take advantage of our small loan program, and so forth.
Roadblocks, whether internal or external, were discussed with solutions identified. And the results?
Mean GPA for this group increased by an impressive 1.08 points. D students moved into the C range, and C students started getting Bs. In quantifiable ways, students who might have failed out are now flourishing.
We have numerous success stories using data for targeted interventions. And because we are “learning-focused,” we are getting better all the time. But the bottom line is, “intrusive advising” helps students perform better and is changing lives dramatically.
We’re also making progress on new facilities. Thanks to the commitment to health care education of Kadlec Regional Medical Center — most recently expressed in a $3 million seed donation — the college will build a second Health Science Center in Richland. The completion date is July 2017 and follows the 2016 launch of our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree program. The medical industry needs more nurses who have the baccalaureate as a minimum, so we are moving quickly. Kadlec will also lease two floors to provide residency space for University of Washington and other medical students, a foresighted program that will increase the number of physicians in our community. Without the extraordinary vision of Kadlec’s leadership, this facility would not happen.
Other capital projects are under way. Because agriculture is the lifeblood of our community, another great partner, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has donated four greenhouses to support our award-winning agriculture program. Also at the start of 2017, CBC will open a new Social Sciences and World Languages building on the north side of the Pasco campus.
Finally, our community’s generosity is changing lives. Last year, the CBC Foundation awarded over $1 million in scholarship support, helping to make college an affordable dream for more than 500 qualified students.
If you need further information about a transfer degree, a new career, workforce training or our premier Running Start program, please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.