Intense data crunching has CWC hopeful on student success drive

Aug 13, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

After four years spent focusing on student success - as opposed to mainly access - at Central Wyoming College, administrators say their efforts are "just starting to pay off."

The change in emphasis came as community college funding models were modified to include a performance metric.

Since then, Coralina Daly, CWC's vice president for student affairs, says her staff has implemented data-driven, continuous quality improvements throughout the campus system, involving high school partners, recruitment and enrollment staff, classroom teachers, advisors, social groups, transfer universities and potential future employers.

"We are making progress here," she told the CWC Board of Trustees.

Degree progress

For example, of the students who graduate, Daly said 92 percent reported having attained their goals while at CWC.

However, she continued, too few students who enroll go on to join that group of college graduates.

Daly's data showed that only 26 percent of first-time, full-time students who enrolled in 2012 earned the certificate or degree they wanted within three years.

For the 2013 cohort that number rose only slightly to 28 percent.

By comparison, the national rate of degree completion for students enrolled in similar institutions in 2012 was about 24 percent, and Wyoming's average was 30 percent.

Part-time student completion is low, too: Only 23 percent of part-time students who enrolled in fall 2012 completed and/or transferred to a four-year institution within three years.

Two-thirds of CWC's students enroll part time for fewer than 12 credits, Daly said.

At risk

According to Daly, student risk factors are one reason for the completion lag.

Eighty percent of degree-seeking student at CWC are considered "at risk," Daly said, meaning they receive financial aid, are the first in their family to go to college, or had to begin with developmental course work.

"Fremont County has some of the hardest characteristics," she said, noting that more than 58 percent of CWC students are from the local area.

"Our completion challenge is a little harder when you look at academic needs and psycho social (issues)."

Trustee Nicole Schoening agreed that a lot of the barriers to student success locally are "out of (CWC's) control."

"It's not ... specific to, 'I'm not happy at CWC; they don't have (my) programs,'" Schoening said. "It's access for them and making it something they can do and juggle family and work obligations and transportation issues."

When students from summer 2016 through spring 2017 were asked to explain why they dropped out, most (75) cited a lack of motivation, followed by a lack of time (72) and family commitments (46).

Thirty said, "College isn't for me." Slightly fewer said they decided to change their major.

About 15 said they thought the class format was confusing, and another 15 cited technology issues.

Lack of finances accounted for about 12 dropouts, while about eight students each said they had access code problems and legal issues.

Seven students had issues with financial aid, and fewer than five were switching sections.

Minority students

There's also an "ongoing success gap" between minority and white student, Daly said.

This year the success rate for white students was 22 percent higher than for minority students - better than last year's 37 percent gap, but "still an area for improvement," Daly said.

"While the white students at CWC outperformed the national average, all other categories are below," she said in her report. "There is certainly a gap to be addressed."

Twenty-eight percent of students list their ethnicity as something other than Caucasian, Daly said, including 14 percent who identified as American Indian and 8 percent who identified as Hispanic.