Iowa community colleges join push for degree, certification completion

Statewide articulation agreement key to students' success, one official says

James Q. Lynch
Published: March 5 2014 | 12:36 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:11 am in

Iowa community college students are joining a nationwide effort to boost completion rates in degree and certificate programs in order to successfully transfer to four-year programs or enter the workforce and increase their lifetime earnings.

They are signing the Community College Completion Corps – C4 – initiative to complete their programs. Community college staff and faculty are signing the C4 pledge to assist students.

“In just the past year, all 15 of Iowa’s community colleges, their Phi Theta Kappa chapters, faculty, staff and even non-PTK students have pledged to support C4,” said Mick Starcevich, Kirkwood Community College president and chairman of the Iowa Association of Community College Presidents. “This personal commitment from these helping hands can make all the difference to students given the daily challenges some face. We encourage them to stick with this program and we promise to never give up.”

Statistics show the surest way for anyone to land a job in their chosen field is to earn a degree or certificate, according to Rod Risley, executive director of Phi Theta Kappa, the largest honor society in higher education. PTK is one of five national organizations spearheading the C4 initiative.

Those statistics also show completing a degree or certificate program can increase lifetime earnings by up to $400,000 and lead to living a healthier life, according to the fraternity.

A key to increasing community college completion, Risley said at the Capitol Wednesday, is for the Legislature to enact a statewide articulation agreement between Iowa community colleges, which have about 400,000 credit and non-credit students.

However, Senate Education Committee Chairman Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said Iowa State University, where he teaches, has articulation agreements with each of the 15 community colleges.

“There is a strong recognition that we need to work together,” he said. “Community colleges are the right start for a lot of students.”

Risley said he wasn’t talking about college-to-college agreements.

“Why do we not have a statewide articulation system?” he said. “Why is it that we let the public universities pick apart transcripts, make students repeat classes or take classes over when we provide the quality of instructions we do in community colleges?”

As the cost and time required for students to get a degree increases, “the more likely they will not,” Risley said.

He encouraged policymakers to “move away from a philosophy of a right to fail to support to succeed.” That will become more important, Risley said, because he expects more students will choose to go to community colleges before transferring to a four-year school to save money.

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