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New CPE initiative aims to close equity gaps, increase graduation rates

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Nine Kentucky colleges and universities have identified strategies to increase degree completion rates and close equity gaps with the help of the Kentucky Student Success Collaborative, an initiative of the Council on Postsecondary Education.

The collaborative led both two-year and four-year institutions through an assessment process to identify areas of improvement as part of the Jobs for the Future (JFF) Network Demonstration Project, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The collaborative, with the support of JFF, submitted proposals to fund technical assistance based on their findings.

“This project will offer technical assistance to support large-scale improvements across the state’s higher education institutions,” said Lilly Massa-McKinley, executive director of the collaborative. “The Network Demonstration Project is a national effort to implement reforms that lead to better and more equitable student outcomes, and I’m excited about what our participation will bring to Kentucky colleges.”

The participating institutions include:

  • Big Sandy Community and Technical College
  • Bluegrass Community and Technical College
  • Jefferson Community and Technical College
  • Maysville Community and Technical College
  • Kentucky State University
  • Northern Kentucky University
  • Owensboro Community and Technical College
  • Southeast Community and Technical College
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College

The participating institutions identified two areas for technical assistance: Creation of a holistic, equity centered advising program that connects academic programs to career pathways, including transfer pathways; and IT audits of systems, platforms and hardware to maximize utilization, increase efficiency and reduce cost.

The Network Demonstration Project uses Guided Pathways, an institution-wide approach to redesigning the student experience with an easy-to-use plan that guides a student into and through college. Through a structured onboarding process, use of academic maps, proactive academic and career advising, early alert systems, instructional support and co-curricular activities, Guided Pathways reduce time to degree completion, decrease college expenses and increase career satisfaction.

The Community College Research Center (CCRC) will lead KCTCS partners through customized Guided Career Pathways and Advising Institutes while the Ada Center will work closing with four-year partner institutions to conduct IT audits. The IT Audits help institutions learn how to better leverage technology to support strong access, completion, equity, and post-graduate success goals.

The Kentucky Student Success Collaborative is a member of the Student Success Center Network, a national network of 17 statewide Student Success Centers that each support a network of community colleges in their efforts to increase student completion rates, close equity gaps and strengthen communities. The Student Success Center Network was invited to participate in the Gates-funded Network Demonstration Project.

The Kentucky Student Success Collaborative is the only statewide Student Success Center in the United States that serves both two- and four-year institutions, public and private.

“The Network Demonstration Project is an opportunity for cohorts of colleges to access high-quality and innovative services and expertise through a peer-learning environment,” said Elizabeth McWhorter, senior director at JFF. “Institutions and Student Success Centers are able to use this proven process to design and implement technical assistance services to meet their unique needs and priorities.”

This was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and should not be attributed to the funders.

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