El Paso Community College Gets Bill Gates’ Nod: Increasing Graduation Rates
Officials announced this week that EPCC was one of five community colleges in the state chosen to share a $500,000 grant to plan the Texas Completion by Design program.
The Completion by Design initiative seeks to find ways that community colleges can improve financial- aid counseling, course schedules and other innovations to better help young low-income students complete a degree or certificate.
The initiative is part of a vigorous push by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make college completion a national priority.
In October, Melinda Gates announced that the foundation was investing $34.8 million over five years to help increase graduation rates at community colleges.
Colleges were selected for Completion by Design because of their innovative ideas on improving the completion rates at their campuses, project officials said.
“El Paso Community College is committed to and passionate about student success, and with the investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we will be able to accelerate our efforts through collaboration, new ideas and greater focus,” EPCC President Richard Rhodes said in a statement.
“We look forward to the exchange and dialogue among the cadre colleges to significantly increase the number of students who complete their associate’s
degrees and move on to a four-year institution or into the work force,” Rhodes said.In the past decade, EPCC has more than doubled its enrollment to nearly 30,000 students on five campuses and has tripled the number of students who received associate degrees. The other community colleges in the Texas project are Lone Star College in Houston, the Dallas Community College District, Alamo Colleges in San Antonio and South Texas College in McAllen.
Only about 22 percent of first-time, full-time community college students graduate in three years, and the rates are even lower for black and Hispanic students, according to the Completion by Design officials, who cited federal data.
Many community college students work full time and raise families while going to school. The initiative’s goal is to help those students, particularly low-income students younger than 26.
The Completion by Design project will select five or six colleges to lead the initiative in each state.
The website of Completion by Design stated the initiative is divided into three phases. The first phase is a yearlong planning period when the participating community colleges look at data about what works in helping keep more students in college to earn their degrees.
The second phase is a two- to three-year implementation of strategies and pilot programs approved by the foundation.
The third phase will focus on policy changes and the implementation of successful programs that can expand to colleges nationally.
Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation, praised El Paso’s effort to improve higher education when she spoke in March as part of a lecture series at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“We believe that today’s students – particularly low-income students – need smarter, affordable postsecondary options that lead to high-quality outcomes,” Pennington said in a statement. “Completion by Design aims to give them that, and we are excited to support the innovative work being conducted by these outstanding colleges.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, helps fund health, education and other projects around the world. The foundation has an asset trust endowment of $37.1 billion and supports projects in more than 100 countries.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6102.
About the program
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds projects intended to improve lives around the globe.
- Completion by Design is intended to help more students stay in college and earn their degrees.
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