Jackson, Mississippi – Over the past month, more than 16,000 students pledged to complete their college credentials through statewide Community College Completion Corps (C4) initiatives held in Mississippi and New Jersey.
The initiative is an effort to increase the number of community college students completing their associate degrees and certificates so that they have the credentials they need to successfully transfer to four-year colleges and universities to earn their bachelor’s degrees and enter careers that provide family-sustaining wages.
In an effort to promote degree and credential completion among Mississippi’s community college students, Phi Theta Kappa chapters at each of the state’s 15 community colleges coordinated campus-wide C4 events the week of November 17 in honor of the Society’s Founders Day, November 19. This marks the first time that system-wide, coordinated efforts have been held to promote completion at Mississippi’s community colleges (MSC4). In Mississippi, more than 2,000 students committed to complete their degrees or credentials.
“It is very important for our community college students to complete their degrees or certificates once they enroll at one of our colleges,” said Dr. Eric Clark, Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board. “Many studies have shown the positive benefits of graduating from a community college, and I commend each of our Phi Theta Kappa chapters for engaging all students, faculty members, and advisors on this very important issue.”
The New Jersey Council of County Colleges’ (NJCCC) Center for Student Success partnered with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) for the second consecutive year to sponsor New Jersey’s statewide Phi Theta Kappa Community College Completion Challenge (NJC4). All 19 New Jersey community colleges across the state hosted a series of campus-based college completion activities during the week of October 27-31. The initiative culminated at the Phi Theta Kappa Middle States Region Honors in Action Conference at Bergen Community College in Lyndhurst on Saturday, November 1.
Middle States Regional Coordinator Pattie Van Atter reported that in New Jersey more than 14,000 community college students had pledged to complete a college credential, with nearly 1,000 faculty members committing to be “completion champions” who help them reach their goals.
This year’s events in Mississippi and New Jersey also incorporated CollegeFish.org, the Phi Theta Kappa website designed to help all community college students prepare to transfer to four-year colleges and universities across the country.
“We are excited about NJC4 at New Jersey’s 19 community colleges,” said NJCCC President Dr. Lawrence A. Nespoli. “The addition of CollegeFish to the initiative will only enhance the program and allow us to help the students make accurate, informed decisions when planning to transfer to four-year colleges and universities to earn their bachelor’s degrees.”
In both New Jersey and Mississippi, individual Phi Theta Kappa chapters were in charge of leading their college’s events. Programs included speakers on completion and transfer, student commit to complete pledges, faculty and staff completion champion signing ceremonies, college transfer and career fairs, increased emphasis on the advising process, and social activities such as wellness fairs and a 5K run/walk with a “Finish the Race” theme.
Several Phi Theta Kappa chapters put a creative twist on the C4 initiative, hosting events such as faculty “Lunch and Learns,” workshops on specific college majors, “Get to Know the College Fish” demonstrations, the signing of a ceremonial “Finish in 4” wall, and a western-themed “Happy Trails to Dropouts” awareness activity.
The New Jersey Education Association provided $500 grants to each of its Phi Theta Kappa chapters to help offset the cost of NJC4 activities.
Phi Theta Kappa Executive Director and CEO Dr. Rod Risley, who spoke at one of the events at East Central Community College in Mississippi, said new to the C4 initiative this year was an online pledge that allows the tracking of student progress. This enables faculty to commit themselves as “completion champions” and expanded guidance for follow-up with students.
“You will never have an opportunity like you do right now,” Risley told East Central students. “Once you make your commitment to complete your degree, seek out an advisor, an instructor, a coachand tell them you’ve made your commitment and you need their help.”
Currently, additional statewide C4 events are being planned in 11 other states.
The national Community College Completion Initiative began in April 2010 when leaders from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community College Trustees, the League for Innovation in the Community College, and the Center for Community College Student Engagement signed Democracy’s Colleges: A Call to Action. The Community College Completion Challenge website, cccompletionchallenge.org, showcase the missions, action plans and strategies developed by each organization to involve their constituents to produce 5 million more associate degree and certificate holders by 2020.