Austin, TX – June 20, 2017 – Del Mar College, one of the top awarders of associate degree to Hispanics, announced today a 38 percent increase in the number of credentials awarded this graduation season, reflecting the results of the College’s year-old initiative to increase degree completion.
Nationally, more than 31 million students have enrolled in college and left without receiving a degree or certificate over the last 20 years—and for adult learners, completing is often more of a challenge. At Del Mar College, college administrators and advisors are using insights and models surfaced by Civitas Learning to identify and support students who are close to earning a degree but at risk of not completing.
“We educate a diverse, and typically underserved population of students, including adult learners and commuters. We knew that many of these students were close to completing their degree, but still dropping out due to academic or life challenges. We needed to find a way to identify those students earlier,” said Del Mar College Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Rito Silva. “Our new initiative, powered by actionable data from Civitas Learning, allows us to quickly identify those students, and intervene at the right time, with the right support. We’re seeing a dramatic increase in graduation applications, graduates and awarded credentials.”
Supported by a Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the College launched their initiative in Fall 2016 to increase graduation applications by a total of 20 percent total over five years. In the first year of the program, Del Mar exceeded their goal with a 26 percent increase in graduation applications and a 31 percent increase in the number of students graduating, between Spring 2016 and Spring 2017. This graduation season, the College awarded an additional 240 credentials, marking a 38 percent increase from Spring 2016.
Based on data and insights surfaced by Civitas Learning, administrators and graduation coaches at Del Mar College have been able to identify students who were at least 75% of the way toward a degree, but who had a high potential of dropping before graduating or earning a credential. Through tailored, timely outreach to the students, the graduation coaches were able to provide students with the academic and non-academic support needed to complete.
“Starting in Fall 2016, we tailored outreach to students who had been here multiple semesters. Some of these students had high persistence predictions and received a simple nudge. Other students, however, were shown to be a greater risk despite their previous academic progress. We didn’t know that before,” said Dr. Silva. “Our graduation coaches made phone calls and held one-on-one meetings with these students to help them get across the finish line.”
The College’s shift in focus from access to successful student completion or transfer reflects a national trend as more states base higher education funding on student outcomes. In 2013, Texas policymakers adopted a performance-based funding model that rewards Texas community colleges on student performance metrics from course to degree completion. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60x30TX mandate, which aims to ensure that at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have a workforce credential, certificate or degree, has prompted colleges and universities to employ new strategies to improve completion rates. When achieved, outcomes-based funding streams can be unlocked for the institution.
“In higher ed, it’s tempting to over complicate student success programs. We forget the simplicity of a nudge and how effective that kind of campaign can be,” said Dr. Silva. “Although we’re still early in our partnership with Civitas, we’re already able to take informed action, and we’re learning from their diverse network of colleges and universities.”
Thinking back on the 800+ graduation applications, one student comes immediately to mind for Silva.
“We had one student with more than 100 credits,” said Silva. He said the team looked at his courses and determined that not only did he qualify for an associate’s degree, he also had completed enough credits to earn an additional credential. “We told the student, ‘You’ve graduated. Fill out this application and go see career services. You’ve got the degree and stacked a credential on top’.”
Silva recalls the way he felt when that student sent back a thank you letter to the coaching team at Del Mar after earning his degree and certificate. “Getting these completers through earns us success points and funding, but the most important value is with the individual student. Seeing that the nudge campaign changed that life, that’s what it all comes down to. Knowing you changed somebody’s life and possibly their family’s lives as well…that’s what we’re here for.”