OLC recognized for beating retention odds

Feb 9th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-3: Technology and Culture, Tribal College News

In August, Oglala Lakota College (OLC, Kyle, SD) was recognized nationally for “beating the odds” in helping students most prone to dropping out of college stay on track toward graduation. In a new national report published by HCM Strategists, a Washington, DC, public policy advocacy firm, OLC is profiled along with 31 other post-secondary institutions for its efforts to improve college completion rates and prepare students for successful careers.

 The unfortunate reality is that approximately 2.2 million students will enroll as full-time freshmen in America’s colleges and universities this fall, but less than 60% will earn a four-year degree within six years, and less than 30% will earn a two-year degree within three years. The odds are even worse for low-income and minority students, which puts America further behind in meeting future workforce needs.

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly two-thirds of available jobs by 2018 will require some sort of post-secondary education. Employers are expected to need nearly 22 million new workers with postsecondary degrees, but colleges will fall short of meeting that need by three million graduates.

The report, “Beating the Odds: What It Means and Why It’s Important” (developed with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) is the result of a series of conversations with leaders from 32 post-secondary institutions about what colleges must do to help students— particularly low-income, minority, and adult students—successfully earn a degree. Each of the colleges and universities featured in the report is considered a national model for its efforts to boost completion rates.

“The odds of a low-income American completing college haven’t changed in at least 20 years,” says Kristin Conklin, founding partner at HCM Strategists. “Oglala Lakota College is demonstrating how to beat those odds, ensure student success, and help our economy recover. Today these campuses are the exception. The ‘Beating the Odds’ report provides a blueprint for others to follow.”

Native American youth require more remedial education than the overall average for college students. This increases the time or number of credit hours to completion. In 2006, OLC established a Foundational Studies Department to address remedial education. More than 65% of entering freshmen at OLC require some remedial education to prepare them for college-level coursework. Student success in these remedial courses leads directly to program completion in higher education.

“It does not come as a surprise that the OLC has been recognized as one of 32 colleges/universities across the country as ‘beating the odds’ in helping our students reach one of the most important days on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation—graduation day,” says OLC’s President Thomas Shortbull. “The faculty, staff, students, and the Board of Trustees at OLC stand ready to meet all challenges when it comes to making sure that our students receive a quality education. You see, we are rebuilding the Lakota Nation one student, one graduate at a time.”

The institutions featured in the “Beating the Odds” report represent different sizes, sectors, and programs, but share a similar focus on serving a low-income, minority, and mobile student population and improving persistently low degree attainment rates. The report identified four key approaches to dramatically improve student success. These include helping students prepare for the rigors of college, focusing on retention through student support, more effectively serving the unique needs of today’s students, and demonstrating leadership in creating a culture of completion by uniting the campus in a shared responsibility for student success and completion.

The report is available online at www.hcmstrategists.com/impact.aspx.

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