By Paul Fain
The college “completion agenda” has helped community colleges face facts about where they fall short. But if the focus on completion gets too singular, two-year colleges run the risk of neglecting student access and even the quality of learning on their campuses. That was the message of a panel of community college leaders who spoke Monday at the annual meeting of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD).
“Everybody is in favor of completion. It’s a good thing,” said Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College. He also said the completion agenda can be taken too far. The large community college in central Florida has gotten plenty of plaudits lately, thanks to winning the first Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. “Putting learning before completion has been good for us,” said Shugart.
A fixation on issuing more degrees and certificates runs the risk of inverting this philosophy, according to Shugart, and could encourage colleges to focus on completion before learning. He said a better approach is to stick to an ethos of “if students learn well, deeply and intentionally, more will complete.”