Community Colleges provide a critical access point in the college completion agenda, especially in reaching and teaching underserved populations – working adults, minority, low income and first generation students.
Texas Leads Nation in Grads with Prior Community College Credits
In Texas, more than 70 percent of the public university graduates have had prior community college experience. To help ensure the success of the Texas Association of Community Colleges’ 50 colleges and multi-campus districts, the state has created a new Texas Success Center.
Launched with $2.4 million in funding from the Kresge Foundation, the Meadows Foundation, the Houston Endowment, the Greater Texas Foundation, TG and the states’ community colleges, the Center joins four other pre-existing centers in the country – Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and Arkansas (all funded with Kresge Foundation support) working to centralize their state’s community college student success and student completion initiatives.
Dr. Angela Oriano leads the Texas Success Center, joining the initiative from her previous role with the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.
Bringing Collaboration, Consistency and Useful Metrics into Play
Oriano is pleased to see myriad efforts and initiatives across the state, but is concerned about the disaggregated approach. “Colleges are all focused on helping students be successful, but are at different places on the spectrum. By centralizing our work we can bring collaboration, consistency and useful metrics into play,” she said. “There is important learning that has already occurred over the last decade and that learning also needs to disseminated. We want to help colleges fully understand not just what to do for student success – but how to do it, effectively and at scale.“
“I believe the work we are doing in the community colleges is some of the most important, if not the most important, work in the nation right now,” said Oriano. “My job is to help the people who do this every day connect to the resources, tools and people they need to do this work more effectively.”
For Oriano, the first step is mapping student success and student completion initiatives across the state. “It’s a huge undertaking,” she admits. “I believe by having a map of what we’re doing, who is doing it, where they are doing it and the metrics they are using to measure it, we can build an important picture of how to commence with the right work for Texas,” she said. “For example, we may discover there are 35 colleges working independently on mandatory orientations. We can create connections, share resources and tools, and learn the best, high impact ways to approach those orientations for everyone’s benefit.”
The Center will operate with five principles that mirror State Legislature priorities: (1) Workforce and Skills Alignment, (2) Measuring and Funding Success, (3) College Readiness, (4) Transfer and Articulation, and (5) Texans in Community Colleges. Five leadership teams will be established with members from the 50 colleges, each team assigned one of the principles as focus for their work. College presidents will work with Oriano and her team to nominate members. The Measuring and Funding Success team is already working to develop recommendations around performance funding metrics.
Institute with Action Planning Workshops
Oriano already has a goal for the end of the first year, after conceptual plans have been operationalized. “I am looking forward to our first statewide learning event, an Institute with teams from all 50 colleges. I would like each multi-disciplinary team to walk away from the Institute with a written document that includes an action plan for specific activities at their college that will integrate metrics into their initiatives. I see mini learning opportunities within the Institute so colleges can self select the topics that are best suited to the priorities and challenges in their student success work.” said Oriano. She is also forming an advisory board (including members from the other four state centers) to participate in a strategic planning session in December. “I’m happy to have leaders from the other centers take part in this important first planning meeting. We want to create coherence across these centers.”
Clearly passionate about her purpose, Oriano adds, “I believe in the work the dedicated people in community colleges are doing, here in Texas and across the U.S., and I look forward to learning with, and working with, my colleagues to improve student success. It’s a serious coalition of the willing!”
Angela Oriano, PhD, was the executive director of the Texas Success Center at the time this story was published. Prior to this role, she served as a Senior Associate at the Center for Community College Student Engagement, an initiative of the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin.