The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) is using a developmental grant from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to design new ways to help students finish college in three years.
The grant, which is less than $10 thousand, is a part of the Community College Roadmap Project, which helps community colleges create proactive programs for academic support.
Mary Frances Archey, Vice President for Student Success and Completion at CCAC, said the money will be used in three areas to promote academic progress.
- To focus on the path students take from considering a college up to their first class scheduling meeting with an advisor
- Creating an accelerated learning program, which takes entering students who are close to college level courses and places them in developmental courses simultaneously. A teacher would administer both classes and help students in the developmental course with the skills they need in the college course.
- Enhancing the campus’ “learning commons," which are places attached to campus libraries where students can seek academic help without having to schedule appointments.
Archey said the aim is to get students enrolled in CCAC to graduate in at least 3 years. An associate degree can be earned in two years.
“Students need to have a deliberate direction,” said Archey. “They need to know from day one ‘If I do this step, this step, and this step, in no more than six semesters, excluding summer school, I can earn my associate degree.'”
Archey said the grant will help them to develop processes and policies for the programs on which they want to work.
She said the AAC&U is seeking additional foundation funding. If it gets it, all 10 schools in the project will be able to go after those dollars.
Archey said additional funding would mean more students enrolled in an accelerated learning program.
“With our own budget we can do probably three to four sections across each of our (four) campuses,” said Archey. “With grant funding we may be able to put in place 15 to 20 across each of the campuses, so more students would have greater access to that learning program.”
She said without grant funding the programs would take longer to implement, but the school plans to keep them are in place.