A national initiative aimed at closing the knowledge gap has found an active partner in the South Carolina Technical College System. Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count is a multi-year effort that aspires to help more community college students succeed, particularly low-income and minority students who often face significant barriers to completing their postsecondary education.
In South Carolina, more than 63% of African-Americans and nearly 55% of Hispanics enrolled in public postsecondary education attend a technical college. Additionally, more than half of Federal Pell Grant recipients are technical college students.
Achieving the Dream has assembled a core group of 100 institutions, called demonstration colleges, that are using data-driven changes to achieve the ultimate goal of increasing the number of students who complete courses, persist from year to year, and earn certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Nationally, the initiative impacts nearly 1 million students. Aiken Technical College, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, the Technical College of the Lowcountry and Trident Technical College committed to the five-year initiative in 2007. Greenville Technical College joined Achieving the Dream in 2009.
The goals of Achieving the Dream are to help more students:
- Successfully complete developmental instruction and advance credit-bearing courses
- Enroll in and successfully complete the initial college-level or gatekeeper courses in subjects such as math and English
- Complete the courses they take with a grade of C or better
- Persist from one term to the next
- Earn a certificate or associate’s degree
Demonstration colleges are primarily focusing their strategic efforts on the first-year experience, instructional techniques, advising and K-20 strategies. In addition, a state policy team focuses on systemic change for the Technical College System. Historically, fewer than half of community college students succeed in earning a degree or transferring to a four-year institution. Although our 16 technical colleges either meet or exceed the state’s approved performance standards, there is room for improvement.
The five South Carolina technical colleges participating as Achieving the Dream demonstration colleges began by conducting research using a variety of methods including but not limited to analyzing data, conducting focus groups and surveys, visiting colleges with model programs, and identifying gatekeeper courses. During the year of research and planning, each college identified innovative priorities and strategies to pilot. These colleges will eventually support statewide expansion so that students at all 16 technical colleges in South Carolina will be Achieving the Dream.
For more information on Achieving the Dream, please visit www.achievingthedream.org.