Association Aims to Boost Community College Graduation Rates

A group representing community colleges is working to create more defined pathways to career or further education in an effort to help more students get their degrees.

The American Association of Community Colleges wants to help more students graduate.

Last week, AACC launched a program aimed at increasing graduation rates by assisting community colleges in the design and implementation of academic and career pathways for students. The Pathways Project, which is funded by a $5.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will consist of six two-day institutes focusing on what it will take to implement a fully scaled pathway model for students.

“This project is a game-changer,” Walter G. Bumphus, AACC president, said in a statement. “Pathway programs will provide clearly delineated outlines for students to follow toward their completion goals. The Pathways Project will allow AACC and our partners to develop modeling, training, and materials based upon successful programs that will serve as an implementation guide for our colleges.”

Low graduation rates at community colleges have sparked national attention. According to reports, only about 40 percent of community college students graduate within six years, and 25 percent who enter in the fall semester do not return in the spring.

AACC, which represents roughly 1,200 two-year, associate-degree-granting institutions that enroll more than 13 million students, will initially invite 30 community colleges to take part in the project with plans to roll it out more widely in the future.

To help achieve Pathways’ goals, AACC is partnering with several organizations, including Achieving the Dream, Inc., the Aspen Institute, the Center for Community College Student Engagement, the Community College Research Center, Jobs for the Future, the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement, and Public Agenda.

The project will also take into consideration recommendations from AACC’s 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, which was formed to help examine the challenges and opportunities within the higher-education industry.

“Increasingly institutions are putting knowledge into practice and demonstrating success,” said Bumphus. “However, we need to ensure that these models are replicable and scalable at the national level; that’s what the Pathways Project will help to do.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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