A Message from Vice Chancellor Sharon Morrissey
The Virginia Community College System has a bold strategic plan – to triple the number of credentials awarded for economic vitality and individual prosperity by 2021. This strategic plan focuses us on the outcomes of the 320,000 students who enroll in Virginia’s community colleges each year, seeking to complete degrees, diplomas, certificates, and industry certifications.
Tripling credentials is not just about the numbers; it’s about helping our students obtain credentials with labor market value. Whether they plan to transfer or go directly into the workforce, students are looking for pathways to jobs with family sustaining wages. Tripling credentials is about creating those pathways and making sure that Virginia has a strong middle class to support the economic vitality of the Commonwealth.
We have a lot of work to do. According to data from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia, only 39% of all students who entered a community college in 2010-11 graduated, transferred, or were continuing their education within six years of enrollment.
Our challenge is to find ways to improve retention and completion of the students who enroll in our colleges. We have asked each college to develop a Student Success Action Plan to guide your work toward increasing completion over the next five years. Recently, we completed a listening tour of all 23 community colleges to learn about best practices for student success, and we are sharing those lessons learned through this Student Success Resource Center website.
In addition, we are working with our colleges to support the planning and implementation of a comprehensive Guided Pathways strategy. To fully realize the promises of improved student success measures, we need to review program structures, explore and evaluate advising models, develop operational practices that align with student success goals, address policy barriers, and implement an integrated technology tool to support student onboarding, advising and course scheduling.
Clearly, this work is much bigger than merely tripling credentials. It’s about putting students at the center of our work. It’s about developing highly structured student experiences that guide them on the pathway to completion. It’s about helping students clarify their goals for college and careers, choose a program of study, and develop an academic plan with predictable schedules. It’s about embedded advising, progress tracking, and clear pathways to successful transfer or entry into the labor market. It’s about watching as many students walk across the graduation stage as those who stand in the registration lines. It’s about completion.
I’m glad to be working with you on this exciting journey.