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Community Colleges and States Selected to Boost College Graduation Rates - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Effort will build on promising remedial programs and inform others on innovative ways to help more students earn their college degrees

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MDC, Inc. announced $16.5 million in grants to 15 community colleges and five states to expand groundbreaking remedial education programs that experts say are key to dramatically boosting the college completion rates of low-income students and students of color.

A recent report from Jobs for the Future found that that nearly 60 percent of students enrolling in the nation’s community colleges must take remedial classes to build their basic academic skills. For low-income students and students of color, the figure topped 90 percent at some colleges. Remedial classes cost taxpayers more than $2 billion a year, money that is mostly wasted as few students even complete the classes, let alone continue on to graduate.

The grants announced today will fund the Developmental Education Initiative, which will build upon the most promising programs developed through Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, a multi-year national initiative to boost graduation rates at community colleges, particularly among low-income students and students of color. The remedial education models developed by the 15 community colleges receiving these grants represent some of the most promising work in the country aimed at boosting college completion rates among struggling students.

The lessons learned through Achieving the Dream—such as streamlining high school and college standards, using technology to boost basic skills, and the power of mentorships—are proving that these students can succeed when colleges develop programs that fit students’ needs.

More than 133,000 students take remedial education classes in the 15 community colleges selected for these latest grants. The number of students moving from remedial to college-level courses improved 16 to 20 percent through these selected programs.

Achieving the Dream was launched as a partnership in 2004 with funding from Lumina Foundation for Education. Lumina is also committing $1.5 million to this latest initiative for evaluation and communications. Jobs for the Future is the advocacy partner for Achieving the Dream.

"The pressing need to shore up weak academic skills in first-year students is one of the most significant, but least discussed, problems confronting higher education,” said Carol Lincoln, director of the Developmental Education Initiative and national director of Achieving the Dream for MDC. “Colleges that can figure out how to quickly and efficiently boost basic skills, particularly among students of color and low-income students, will play a leading role in helping them earn the college degrees necessary for economic success in America today.”

The grants also will support state-level efforts in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia to implement new data collection systems that will help them better track the success of their remedial programs. A sixth state, North Carolina, will participate with its own funding. These states have also pledged to measure their progress against those in other states.

“Too many institutions have not developed powerful and effective ways to accelerate academic progress for students who start college underprepared,” said Hilary Pennington, director of Education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “By working together, states, community colleges, and local school districts can design programs to accelerate high-quality learning and shorten the amount of time it takes to earn a degree.”

The grants announced today advance the Gates Foundation’s efforts to help ensure every young person in the United States graduates from high school ready for college and obtains a postsecondary degree that prepares them to succeed in the global economy.

In today’s America, a college degree or postsecondary certificate is required to obtain a family-wage job and a shot at the middle class. Until recently, education reform efforts and national policies have focused on increasing access to college, but have done little to help students earn credentials that employers value. The Obama administration has called on the states and education leaders to work together to help the United States lead the world in percentage of college graduates by 2020.

The following is a summary of the grants announced today:


Total Funds: $1,786,000
State of Connecticut
$300,000 over three years
Phase in common statewide placement standards and align remedial work with credit-bearing courses to accelerate progress toward degree completion.
Housatonic Community College
$743,000 over three years
Expand its innovative self-paced math course offerings; introduce similar self-paced English courses; expand an intensive three-week math review course designed to improve placement test results; and offer college placement tests to incoming high school seniors so they can begin any needed development work during their final year of high school.
Norwalk Community College
$743,000 over three years
Align remedial math and English with college-credit courses; expand learning communities, including linkages to a freshman seminar course; assist developmental students in establishing e-portfolios; provide support through the NCC Student Success center.


Total Funds: $1,043,000
State of Florida
$300,000 over three years
Collaborate with K-12 to reduce the need for remedial education.
Valencia Community College
$743,000 over three years
Create a centralized remedial program to be used across four campuses; align high school, remedial, and college-level standards; expand a student success course, supplemental instruction, and remedial learning communities; and embed reading skills into its remedial math courses.

North Carolina

Total Funds: $743,000
Guilford Technical Community College
$743,000 over three years
Provide intensive advising and case management for remedial students; create a new Learning Assistance Center; and expand its student success course, learning communities, peer-led instruction program, and accelerated remedial courses.


Total Funds: $4,015,000
State of Ohio
$300,000 over three years
Develop a new performance-based funding system that would reward community colleges for helping students progress through remedial education and subsequent college-level courses.
Cuyahoga Community College
$743,000 over three years
Implement Teaching and Learning Integrated Team model, which incorporates mentoring, online and in-person tutoring, supplemental instruction, and collaborative student learning. Provide faculty and staff training to integrate these services into course design.
Jefferson Community College
$743,000 over three years
Integrate Adult Basic Education into the remedial education department and redesign remedial math and English courses following the National Center for Academic Transformation model. Expand professional development offerings.
North Central State College
$743,000 over three years
Expand several pilot programs, including a self-paced learning lab, a program for adult GED students, an accelerated math boot camp, intensive advising, and the creation of a dedicated remedial education tutoring center. Continue high school outreach through placement test workshops for faculty.
Sinclair Community College
$743,000 over three years
Conduct a policy and practice review that will guide programs for remedial students. Expand its Student Success Plan initiative, which offers high school students individual learning plans, coaching, and case management as well as online math modules with diagnostics.
Zane State College
$743,000 over three years
Expand its remedial math advising program to all remedial courses, incorporate technology into remedial education courses with a mobile lab, and train faculty on how to further improve the classroom experience.


Total Funds: $3,272,000
State of Texas
$300,000 over three years
Institute performance incentives to reward the state’s colleges for helping more students advance through remedial education courses.
Coastal Bend College
$743,000 over three years
Focus on improving remedial math programs by providing mandatory case management for students and by aligning remedial and credit-bearing math courses more efficiently.
El Paso Community College
$743,000 over three years
Expand to four campuses its College Readiness Initiative, which aligns remedial and college entry and exit standards; provide case management for all remedial education students for 30 credit hours; and expand its “modular math” program.
Houston Community College
$743,000 over three years
Align remedial math outcomes with college-level courses; expand “modular math” and learning communities that assign students to a cluster of courses as a group; and provide supplemental instruction in all remedial math courses.
South Texas College
$743,000 over three years
Offer its Beacon Mentoring Program to all remedial students and create a task force to ensure courses align with students’ career goals and that the curriculum is integrated across all three remedial subjects.


Total Funds: $1,786,000
State of Virginia
$300,000 over three years
Commission research to identify obstacles to completion, factors that correlate with student success, and high and low performing institutions to inform statewide goals for community colleges.
Danville Community College
$743,000 over three years
Align remedial and college-level entry and exit standards. Form a Remedial Education Advisory Committee, represented by college faculty and staff and key stakeholders outside the college.
Patrick Henry Community College
$743,000 over three years
Expand accelerated courses and skill-focused instruction, simultaneous enrollment in remedial and college-level courses, and a math lab requirement. The college will refine a diagnostic tool that identifies risk factors in remedial students and guides placement in appropriate interventions.

Lumina Foundation for Education
Lumina Foundation for Education is a private foundation committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college—especially low-income students, students of color, first-generation students, and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the proportion of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials from 39 percent to 60 percent by 2025. The Foundation pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using its communications and convening power to build public will for change.

MDC, Inc.
MDC is a nonprofit headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC. Founded in 1967 to identify and help remove barriers to progress for the South. MDC has been publishing research and developing policies and programs focused on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and building inclusive civic cultures in the American South for the past 40 years. It builds the capacity of institutions and communities to work for more just and equitable conditions now and into the future. MDC’s mission is to help organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from opportunity.

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