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Higher ed report yields mixed results

CMSD NEWS BUREAU
3/23/2015

The community's push to ensure that more CMSD graduates enroll and succeed in college is yielding mixed results, according to a new report.

More CMSD students are graduating from high school or are on track to graduate, and fewer require remedial instruction in college, the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland says in its third annual report. But the numbers of graduates applying to college and filing for federal student aid have dipped, according to the report, which was presented to a packed ballroom last week in the Cleveland State University Student Center.
 
The patterns in the report require deeper analysis, district Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said while moderating a panel discussion that accompanied the report’s release. But he and others are not waiting to initiate measures that could nudge more students toward a brighter future.

CMSD has hired a project manager to oversee an online college planning program available to students.

College Now Greater Cleveland, a member of the compact, has identified hundreds of college-ready graduates who have not pursued higher education. College Now advises students and provides them with financial aid counseling and scholarships.

And the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation has given the Higher Education Compact $160,000 to study innovative ways of shortening the time needed to complete work on degrees. That could help students finish before finances or other factors cause them to falter.

“We have a long way to go, but that’s not a big deal for us,” Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at the close of the meeting. “We can do it.”

Jackson formed the compact in 2011 to improve CMSD students’ readiness for, access to and persistence in college. Besides, the city and CMSD, the group includes 18 colleges and universities in Ohio and Michigan and a host of community partners and funders.

Here are some of the 2014 report’s major findings.

READINESS

CMSD’s graduation rate has reached a record 64 percent, while 68 percent of the current seniors are on a course to graduate. And the number of graduates needing remedial instruction in English and math dropped from 76 percent to 72 percent in 2012, the most recent data available.

But the number of students with college-ready grade-point averages and ACT scores remained unchanged from the previous year’s report. Twenty-six percent of 2013 grads carried a B average or higher and 14 percent of last year's senior class achieved the minimum college-ready score of 21.

High schools across the country are struggling with a “disconnect” between what they teach and what students encounter in college, said panelist Haley Glover, strategy director for the Lumina Foundation. 

ACCESS

The number of students who enrolled in college within a year of graduation declined from 61 percent for the Class of 2011 to 53 percent for the Class of 2013. When the figure dropped in last year’s report, observers blamed escalating tuition costs.

Slightly more than half of 2014 CMSD graduates completed at least one application, about the same as the previous year. On the plus side, the graduates who filled out applications completed an average of five, an increase from four.

PERSISTENCE

The number of students who graduated from four-year institutions within six years climbed from 30 percent to 33 percent in the 2014 report, and the number earning four-year degrees from compact member institutions in four years rose from 15 percent to 21 percent.

Forty-nine percent of 2013 CMSD graduates stayed at compact institutions for a second year, up from 46 percent. And 46 percent earned 24 credits in their first year, compared with 39 percent from the Class of 2012.

“That’s the sign of being focused,” said panel member Deirdre Mageean, CSU’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “The more you get under the belt, the closer you are to the goal.”

The day's keynote speaker, Timothy Renick, vice president for enrollment management and student success at Georgia State University, had encouraging words and advice for the Higher Education Compact, which he called a model for other urban areas.
 
Since Renick took over Georgia State’s student success program in 2008, the university has enrolled record numbers of low-income and minority students and raised graduation rates. The efforts have drawn attention from the White House and major news organizations.

Renick said many minority or lower income students are a minor mistake or two away from failure.

To improve their chances of success, Georgia State has established a summer academy for new students thought to be at risk of failure, schedules courses at consistent times so students can hold jobs and closely follows data to make sure students stay on track. The university also gives students flexibility to explore majors so those who switch don’t get bogged down with unneeded credits.

“You can make a difference,” Renick told his audience. “It’s not a matter of enrolling the ‘right’ students.”



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