Columbus State Community College won an award Tuesday from the organization Achieving the Dream for increasing student success and decreasing achievement gaps.
The school nearly tripled its three-year-graduation rate, from 8 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2017. It also reduced the gap of course completion between its white and black students, from 22 percent to 14, and increased the overall course completion rate to 74 percent.
President David Harrison accepted the 2019 Leah Meyer Austin Award at a ceremony in Long Beach, Calif.
“As an open access institution, we really try to make it easy for students to become a college student, which didn’t require a lot of them when they first got to class,” Harrison said in an interview with WOSU's Clare Roth. “So among the first things we changed were requiring students to do things to be better prepared to succeed.”
Among those requirements were mandatory orientation for all new students and a student success course.
Columbus State instituted an early alert system to help faculty and staff intervene with struggling students. Meanwhile, Harrison says English and math faculty redesigned their courses to help students prepare for college-level work.
“The early stage interventions helped underrepresented groups disproportionately,” he says. “So a disproportionate positive impact on low-income students and students of color.”
Harrison says the college wants to extend its model of “making help unavoidable.” He says 65 percent of Columbus State students are working 20 hours a week or more. Harrison wants to partner with businesses and community agencies to ease some barriers those students face in tuition, transportation, housing.