How Colleges and Universities Are Improving Degree Completion

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Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)

Amid growing concern over lackluster college completion rates in the United States, this report takes a look at strategies employed by 15 colleges that stand out for helping economically and academically challenged students graduate in a timely manner. The study is meant to add to the growing body of research that shows how institutional action and intervention can make a difference in enabling more such students to earn their degrees.

The elixir in each of the successful colleges, the study says, is their campus culture, culture being defined as “the sum total of the values, customs, traditions and beliefs that shape how people behave.” The report found that the two primary ingredients of a good campus culture are attentive leadership and intense focus on individual students. The report provides descriptions of effective strategies at colleges that range from the California State University, Long Beach to Queens College of the City University of New York. It makes note of practices that range from creating “learning communities” to using “learning contracts.” It also contains a series of recommendations that range from having a dedicated team of campus leaders to oversee efforts to improve student success, to monitoring student progress on their individual graduation plans.

 Free, 52 pages. http://publications.sreb.org/2010/10E02_Promoting_Culture.pdf.