WASHINGTON, D.C. – Northeast Community College has spent the past four years redesigning, reinventing and resetting processes to improve student success. Dr. Michael Chipps, president, said the resetting of Northeast’s compass has come about by closely observing and utilizing the great work from both the 21st Century Commission and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
That “Blue Book” is AACC’s 2014 report entitled “Empowering Community Colleges to Build the Nation’s Workforce: An Implementation Guide,” which has served as the primary standard along with the recommendations of AACC’s 21st-Century Commission, which focused on America’s quest to dramatically improve college completion among its more than 1,100 community colleges.
“Northeast has used the Blue Book to be the foundation blocks of our comprehensive strategic plan called Vision 2020,” Chipps said at the opening session of the AACC Fall Meeting in Arlington, VA recently. “It is beyond words to have such a great team at Northeast who ‘caught the vision’ through the 21st Century Commission and AACC’s ‘Blue Book.’ It made good sense to take this guidance and operationalize it through Northeast’s strategic plan.”
Similar to many other community colleges, Northeast’s review started by looking at its mission statement, which hadn’t been revised since 1995. The Board of Governors decided to modify the mission to reflect how Northeast is “dedicated to the success of students and the region it serves.”
The Board then approved four strategic goals for its Vision 2020 comprehensive plan; increase student success; increase student access; provide a globally competitive workforce; and maximize resources. Then came the tough part: how to accomplish those goals. Chipps said this more operational process took some doing, but after four-years Northeast landed on 63 “action plans.” The senior leadership now reviews the status of these action plans on a monthly report.
Following the implementation of the four strategic goals, Northeast took the Blue Book’s seven recommendations and integrated them into Vision 2020. For example, with the Blue Book’s recommendation to increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020, the college focused employee goals around student success completion. Those goals have been formalized and are now part of the employee’s annual performance review.
“Each of our employee’s goals are to represent elements of student success, student completion and growing enrollment,” Chipps said.
Northeast also focused on creating a culture of student success through transforming student advising. Northeast is now assigning a professional advisor to all new degree-seeking students. Faculty become secondary advisors when students enter their second year.
As a result of multiple positive advising changes, completion rates at Northeast increased from 46 percent in 2015 to 53 percent in 2017 for first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students.
Another Blue Book recommendation is the implementation of good practices that promote rigor and accountability. Northeast is now focused on collaborating across divisions, requiring new student orientation, expanding work-based learning opportunities, and implementing a system to better evaluate potential obstacles to student success, appropriately named FAME (family, academics, motivation and economics), thereby alerting staff to activate the early intervention process.
“We can better assist our students if we are more aware of matters that may interfere with their college success,” Chipps said.
Chipps was the only community college president to present at AACC’s Fall Meeting. He was personally invited by Dr. Walter Bumphus, AACC president and CEO. The invitation to speak was requested after Bumphus read about the work taking place at Northeast. He told Chipps the manner and way that Northeast approached this massive task is exactly what the Commission envisioned.
“However, to be very honest with you, I am not sure that any of us dreamed that a College would employ the strategy and obvious discipline that (Northeast) clearly did. My executive leadership team, board, and especially the co-chairs of the 21st Century Commission are equally proud and pleased with Northeast’s excellent work.”
Bumphus said Chipps’ presentation was one of the best sessions he had ever seen at any of AACC’s Fall meetings. The approximately 150 attendees consisted of the association’s 32-member board, the appointed members of all AACC appointed commissions and councils, as well as AACC staff.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, speaks to approximately 150 people at the Fall Meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges in Arlington, VA, recently as Dr. Walter Bumphus, AACC president and CEO listens to his presentation. (Courtesy American Association of Community Colleges).