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Jennifer Stroughmatt, Retention Coordinator at Wabash Valley College, along with retention coordinators at IECC’s sister institutions, participated in a recent study conducted by Doctoral candidate Pam Schield in research at the University of Wisconsin on two-year public technical and community colleges, looking to find out what is working to help college students complete their college goals “better than average.” As part of a survey and interview that Schield requested, Stroughmatt said that she learned some very insightful things about our quiet corner of the world.

In order to do her research, Schield needed to set a few parameters to define “better than average.” During the interview, Schield explained that “better than average” meant they had to show an increase in graduation rates figured between 2009 and 2014. Having looked at national data comparing 990 two-year public and community colleges, only a mere 16 made the cut for “better than average.” That is, 2% of the schools were actually improving and graduating students. Two-thirds of the 990 colleges were not improved (maintained) or actually decreased in the numbers of graduates. The IECC schools’ graduation rates, most rare Schield said, were well above 50%.

The national average for graduation from a four-year college is around 40% or less, depending on the dates considered. Commenting on this, Stroughmatt said, “For me, when I figure the cost of attendance, community college here is not only a better choice financially, it is a better choice academically due to the supports that our District can offer, with one-on-one personal touches.”

In commenting further, Stroughmatt noted that Schield shared with her, “The schools that are getting it know that it is about advising and connection. What you (IECC) are doing is what needs to happen in more places.” Stroughmatt further stated, “Indeed, changes made in the past 5 years within IECC are all

about putting the students’ futures first. Much of our focus, time, and energy has been reviewing and redefining how we engage with students to help them achieve their goals.”

Stroughmatt added, “I am excited to be a part of an educational community that knows that the people we serve are part of our community, that they deserve the best information and access we know how to give them, and that when the going gets rough, we are here to help. Community college is as much about education as it is giving back and growing our community. I hope that as everyone begins to make their college selections for fall, they consider the amazing opportunities we have right here in our neck-of-the-woods to change their lives and the lives of those they love.”