Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit organization committed to helping more community college students succeed, recently congratulated Northern Virginia Community College for increasing its three-year graduation rate by four percentage points for first-time, degree-seeking students. NOVA’s three-year graduation rate went from 12 percent in the 2006-07 academic year to 16 percent in the 2009-10 academic year.
South Texas Community College in McAllen, Texas, also improved its three-year graduation rate by four percentage points and the graduation rate at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va., rose by three percentage points.
“These increased graduation rates are really remarkable, particularly since the progress is with institutions serving a considerable proportion of low-income students and students of color,” said William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “These percentage points represent thousands of students who now have a degree or credential, greater economic opportunity, and a better chance of achieving the American Dream.”
“Our students work very hard to achieve their goals and we’re committed to helping them succeed,” said President Robert G. Templin Jr. “One of our initiatives, First Year Experience, is showing great results by keeping new students engaged from semester to semester and year to year.”
First Year Experience is designed to increase students’ preparation for college and engagement in the college community. Almost 86 percent of new students who participated in First Year Experience were retained from fall 2008 to spring 2009, compared to a retention rate of 68 percent of first-time students who did not participate in the program. The fall 2008 to spring 2010 retention rate was 63 percent for First Year Experience participants compared to 44 percent for students who did not take advantage of the program.
First Year Experience provides academic and social support to keep students in college and improve graduation rates. Participants benefit from early advising, orientation, learning communities, peer mentoring and social events. Connecting, critical thinking and community building are the three guiding principles. Activities connect students to the resources and information needed to negotiate the college. The program also challenges students with academic and student development experiences for intellectual and personal growth. In addition, participants create a sense of community through convocation, social networking, community service and other student activities.
Achieving the Dream highlighted NOVA’s First Year Experience program in its recently released “Promising Practices of 2010 Leader Colleges.” The report details best practices that help students succeed. “Promising Practices of 2010 Leader Colleges” is available online at http://www.achievingthedream.org/resource/2010_promising_practices.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.