Numbers don’t lie: a recent study of Phi Theta Kappa members shows that members have an overall student success rate of 91 percent, compared to a national success rate of just 38 percent.
The findings come as President Barack Obama puts a spotlight on community colleges in his proposal to offer free tuition to two-year college students. They also help align Phi Theta Kappa with the President’s call to increase the number of Americans with college degrees by 2020.
“The data shows that Phi Theta Kappa is a valued partner in student completion,” Executive Director and CEO Dr. Rod Risley said. “Through research-based and diverse programming, we have proven that Phi Theta Kappa establishes a culture of completion among its members, which is vital in today’s society.
“It is estimated that 65 percent of jobs will require some kind of postsecondary credential by 2018. Phi Theta Kappa is establishing itself as a powerful tool in helping community colleges meet the challenge issued to them in 2010 to produce an additional 5 million certificates and degrees by the end of the decade.”
In the fall of 2014, Phi Theta Kappa conducted a 50-state survey of student success from a random sample of more than 14,000 members. The methodology used was similar to that used by community colleges to determine their completion and transfer-out rates for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Surveys (IPEDS).
The students studied were inducted as Phi Theta Kappa members in 2009 and were pulled randomly from the Society’s membership database. Using matching datasets from the National Student Clearinghouse Student Tracker Database, it was determined that the completion rate for Phi Theta Kappa members was 83 percent and the transfer-out rate was 9 percent, giving the members an overall success rate of 91 percent.
“Honestly, I was stunned at the results,” said Phi Theta Kappa’s Chief Information and Research Officer Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. “We knew Phi Theta Kappa was making a positive impact in the success rate of its members, but we had no idea the difference would be this remarkable.”
Not only are Phi Theta Kappa members four times more likely to complete college than an average student, but also they are nearly twice as likely to complete college than students with similar grade point averages (3.5 or higher).
“And it isn’t like Phi Theta Kappa members are that different from average community college students,” Tincher-Ladner said. “In fact, when we looked at the demographics, our members were strikingly similar to their non-member peers.”
- 45 percent of members receive Pell grant assistance, and 38 percent of all community college students receive Pell;
- 38 percent of members are first-generation college students, and 36 percent of all community college students are first generation;
- 44 percent of members took at least one developmental course, and 60 percent of all community college students take at least one developmental course;
- 28 is the average age of a member, and it is also the average age of a community college student;
- 66 percent of members are female, and 57 percent of all community college students are female;
- 33 percent of members are minorities, and 48 percent of all community college students are minorities.
“All signs seem to point to student engagement in Phi Theta Kappa being the key to success,” Tincher-Ladner said.
Phi Theta Kappa has been intentional in creating programs and initiatives that align with student success benchmarks outlined by the Center for Community College Student Engagement. These benchmarks – active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction and support for learners – have been proven to be powerful contributors to effective teaching, learning and student retention.
Each community college president and each chapter’s contact advisor have received specific completion data for their state and engagement data for their chapter to review and use.
“This study proves that students desire, need and respond to external validation of their achievements,” Risley said. “However, only 12 percent of students invited to membership in Phi Theta Kappa accept.
“Colleges can increase student completion rates dramatically by being much more intentional in recognizing students eligible for membership in the classroom and explaining how Phi Theta Kappa membership can increase their likelihood of completing college. Being a member of Phi Theta Kappa matters.”