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In 2012, the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) and the Ohio College Access Network (OCAN) entered into a strategic partnership to develop and implement the AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches initiative. The OACC has received two AmeriCorps grants from ServeOhio to implement the program. The AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches program places college graduates, preferably with community college experience, onto Ohio community college campuses to provide in-depth, hands-on guidance and assistance to students who need extra support on their college completion path. In the second year of the program, support from Coaches will be embedded in course sections identified by participating colleges. Potential candidates for the course-embedded support model include developmental English and Math, first year experience (FYE), and college skills courses.
In less than a decade (by 2020), close to two-thirds of Ohio’s jobs (59%) will require a career certificate or a college degree. Today, just over one-third (36%) of Ohio adults have an associate’s degree or higher. Ohio’s community colleges are relied upon to credential Ohioans with certificates, associate’s degrees, and continuing education opportunities to prepare individuals for the changing workforce. Unfortunately, in most cases, a credential is seldom attained in a timely fashion, and in fact, seldom attained at all. In Ohio, less than 10% of those seeking a certificate actually earn one in the time designated to complete (one year); after two years of working on a certificate, only about 15.1% obtain one. For associate’s degrees, success rates are even lower: less than three percent of all students who start a two year degree will actually earn a credential within two years. Within three years, just under 10% will earn their associate degree; within twice the prescribed time – four years – about 16.5% will earn a two-year degree. (Time is the Enemy, Complete College America 2011).
The course-embedded model places AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches in specific courses or course sections identified by the Host Site, e.g. developmental English and Math, first year experience (FYE), and college skills courses. Coaches work with a site supervisor to partner with faculty and support students taking courses in the fall and spring semesters; help students develop a formal completion plan; work to ensure the students meet their education goals; meet with students individually and provide workshop opportunities; and provide volunteer and volunteer leadership opportunities through the AmeriCorps days of service.
Researchers agree that if students achieve certain milestones on a college-completion path, they will be more likely to finish. Indicators of progress for the first year include successful completion of developmental coursework, subsequent college-level coursework, and general education courses with a total of 12 to 24 college-level credit hours earned. It is expected that students served by Coaches will ultimately demonstrate higher credit hour accumulation, persistence rates, and completion rates compared to those not provided with completion coaching.
Performance will be tracked, monitored and reported at least four times a year to the OACC and ServeOhio. The key outputs that will be tracked and reported are the number of meetings with students, completion plans developed, workshops planned and implemented, and service projects planned and implemented. In addition, the first year student success milestones will be monitored. As AmeriCorps members, Coaches are provided with valuable training and professional development, networking, and support with career and “Life After the Corps” goals. Members serve full-time (1,700 hours over 11 months) and in return receive a modest living allowance, health insurance, and an Educational Award.
For the 2015 – 2016 program year, College Completion Coaches served at the following 16 Ohio community colleges:
Central Ohio Technical College, Clark State Community College, Columbus State Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, Eastern Gateway Community College, Edison Community College, Hocking College, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, North Central State College, Northwest State Community College, Owens Community College, Rhodes State College, Southern State Community College, Stark State College and Zane State College.