Higher Ed Shifts Focus from Participation to Graduation

“The quality of life for every one of us in the community will improve…”

A long overdue revolution has begun in how our colleges and universities are being assessed for achievement and it is having an impact in New Mexico. No longer is higher education being measured by how many students they serve or how many classes are completed. Schools are expected to produce certificate and degree graduates and to better advise and track first-time college students to move them quickly and confidently through their certificate and degree programs, instead of letting them meander without guidance, collecting credits that don’t create a cohesive degree plan. The new employment world no longer expects diplomas or GEDs, but require postsecondary credentials. This national push will ultimately better serve students and our nation.

Many of those who started college and quit, or took many college classes–often at multiple schools–but never earned a credential or degree will appreciate the new investment in removing barriers and adding supports for success. Too many students are defeated by one or more barriers:

  • funding
  • knowledge about and the availability of campus support services
  • family understanding and support
  • naiveté about what is expected in college
  • interference by unexpected life events and responsibilities.

Santa Fe Community College has put together multiple teams of faculty, staff, students and administration with new energy for tasks in these different areas. Their actions will help ensure that first-time, returning and continuing students will achieve usable credentials in a timely manner, which will put them on the path to even higher levels of education and training and/or satisfying employment that will provide for themselves and their families.

Sometimes, old college classes can still be applied toward credits in a new school. Other classes have an expiration date for sufficient recollection or modern application. Nonetheless, the new ease with which we can find our old colleges and universities online and order transcripts, can help older students restart their education without having to redo everything. Improved online, evening and weekend offerings expand access to fit parent and working adult schedules. More advanced placement, dual enrollment classes and on site college classes in high schools will better prepare our youth for the college experience and give them a jump start on completing their degrees.

Expansion of career service programs into classes and on campus will better prepare job seekers with new skills and a better understanding how to competitively market themselves for jobs which offer real meaning and sufficient income.

An educated community, able to adequately support themselves and their families, serves us all. I certainly want those who will be leading and caring for me as I age to be optimally trained and supported, with enough energy, compassion and know-how to do a good job. Even if we don’t have children, a need to add to our own education and training or work for an educational system, we all need to add our encouraging voice and support to the practical improvement of all our educational systems. The quality of life for every one of us in the community will improve.

Originally published at SantaFe.com on February 15, 2013