Since opening its doors more than 40 years ago Washington State Community College has provided residents of southeast Ohio with an opportunity to improve their lives through a high quality educational experience. Over the years thousands of individuals have decided that WSCC will provide them with the chance to achieve their dreams. There are so many personal stories to attest to their courage and perseverance.
Achieving, even striving for those dreams is considered a success, and it is now that focus which has become paramount at WSCC. Of course we have always believed in student success, but now more than ever we are building new strategies and measuring our effectiveness.
What are these strategies? Today students are required to attend a new student orientation. Data shows this experience significantly improves student completion. In the past too many students were self-advised as they registered from one quarter or semester to the next. Now, all students must see their advisor prior to registration for the next semester. And, all students today have a coherent MAP or Master Academic Plan. This drastically reduces the taking of unnecessary courses, and helps students to better focus on completion in a reasonable time.
Along with academic advisors, WSCC now has financial aid advisors. For much too long misunderstanding about the most effective use of financial aid has left students in debt and exhausting their eligibility for aid before graduation. That occurrence is being forcefully addressed.
Our former academic center has been rebranded as the Center for Student Success, a place where students struggling in mathematics, English, and other subjects are referred by their faculty in an Early Alert program for assistance from professional and peer tutors. The Center for Student Success also offers assistance for those with disabilities, provides technology assistance, and will loan personal computers.
The list of actionable strategies for student success continues. Everyone at WSCC, full and part-time faculty, and staff, fully understand this is a critical component of our mission. Our Vision is to help students 'achieve individual excellence and successes'.
Interestingly, although we always believed the success of students was critical, WSCC and all community colleges in the state are to be funded on student performance. This is a payment structure whereby the institution receives its state aid based directly on the completion of courses, progression through a program of study, and the celebration of graduation.
Two years ago we collectively defined student success and everyone, including our Board of Trustees, signed a proclamation of commitment. That was when the college began to identify these strategies and put them into operation. So guess what happened when two years later the data was applied to the new funding formula? Our payment for the state share of instruction improved over the traditional enrollment based model!
We feel we are doing something right. But in no way can we rest. Our faculty and staff continue to study the data, review our processes, critique our weaknesses, and through a structured 'Student Voices' program we systematically ask students directly how we can do better. Our efforts are relentless and are focused on improvement.
What this means for students and the community is that in our midst there is an outstanding college directly contributing to the educational and economic improvement of Southeast Ohio. Anyone who has had even a passing thought that their lives could be improved by continuing their education should call or come to the campus and meet with an advisor. I promise you will be greeted warmly and with compassion.
We are obligated to see that every student is a success!
Bradley J. Ebersole, Ph.D. is President of Washington State Community College