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High School, Community College Students Attend Maryland C4 Event

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Hagerstown, MD – Phi Theta Kappa Executive Director Dr. Rod Risley told the crowd attending Hagerstown Community College's Completion Symposium October 12 that the U.S. has some catching up to do in terms of education and completion.

Guest speakers and Phi Theta Kappa representatives at HCC Completion Symposium

Guest speakers and Phi Theta Kappa representatives at HCC Completion Symposium included, front row, from left: Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director, Phi Theta Kappa; Brien Poffenberger, President, Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Guy Altieri, President, Hagerstown Community College; and Dr. Andrew Nichols, Director, Research and Policy Analysis, Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). Back row, from left: Phi Theta Kappa member Allen Calvert; advisor Sherry Donovan; member Allie Villatoro; member Leann Tomlin; Middle States Regional Coordinator Pattie Van Atter; and Pi Theta Chapter President Rick Howe.

During his participation in a completion panel discussion Dr. Risley cited the United States’ fall from being the world’s leader in the percentage of citizens holding higher education credentials to 12th among industrialized countries, and to 25th among the top 34 nations in terms of math skills. 

“As the economy becomes increasingly global, we’re in a real mess here,” Dr. Risley said, “The very future of our country is at stake.”

The completion symposium, “Learn How to Overcome Obstacles When Pursuing a Degree,” was sponsored by the Pi Theta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at HCC in Maryland, and included local high school students, community members, HCC students, faculty and administrators. The event was also open to members of Phi Theta Kappa’s Middle States Region, which includes the surrounding states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in addition to Maryland.

Phi Theta Kappa advisor Sherry Donovan said purpose of the event was to increase awareness of the completion initiative, the need for community support, and services available to help achieve success and overcome barriers to completion. In addition to the panel discussion, the symposium also featured a “Tour of HCC and Washington County,” which provided information on services available both at HCC and from the county/state to assist students in achieving completion and student success.

Guest panelist Dr. Andrew Howard Nichols, Director of Research and Policy Analysis for the Maryland Higher Education Commission, explained that the state aims to increase the number of degrees awarded in Maryland by 20,000 in time to meet a goal that 55% of Maryland residents will have a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree by 2025.

Nichols said Maryland has incorporated several strategies to reach this goal – including redesigning courses to incorporate new technology, “reverse transfer,” which allows community college credits to be awarded retroactively, and “near completers” – an effort to reach out to students who dropped out of school just short of degree completion.

Other panelists for the event included HCC President Dr. Guy Altieri and Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. All agreed that a college degree not only means more earning power, but overall improvement in standards of living such as better health, parenting, consumer choices and civic engagement.

“It was a great evening,” Dr. Altieri said, “I was so proud of my Phi Theta Kappa students for being the first student group to organize a community college completion symposium in Maryland that included speakers from multiple states, including Dr. Risley, the Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa.”

A question and answer session followed the panel discussion, and then students had the opportunity to sign the pledge to complete their credentials.

“The fact that we had to cut the Q&A session off was exciting, questions just kept rolling in!" said Pi Theta Chapter President Rick Howe. "The attendees were quite concerned with developments in the education arena -- not just how it concerns them directly, but others as well. A commitment to complete and help others be successful was quite evident.”

“Planning for completion of a credential or degree could and should start before enrolling in college.  However, the reality is that discussion of career pathways and the importance of completing college are not discussed until much later – if at all,” said Phi Theta Kappa’s Executive Director, Dr. Rod Risley. “I applaud Hagerstown Community College and their Phi Theta Kappa chapter for reaching into the high schools to help students understand the benefits of completion and the consequences of not.”

Read news coverage of the HCC Completion Symposium online

Learn more about how your college can participate in C4, download resources and report results at http://www.cccompletioncorps.org/