Community colleges earn Achieving the Dream certification


Grand Rapids Community College, or GRCC, founded in 1914, offers degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes in Kent and Ottawa counties.

Based on their commitment to improving the success of minority and low-income students, a pair of community colleges have earned a national certification.

Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit network dedicated to community college student success, said last week that Grand Rapids Community College and Muskegon Community College are among the 19 institutions certified as 2015 Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges.

The designation

The designation is awarded to community colleges throughout the country with a commitment to improving student success, increasing student completion and closing achievement gaps.

Using the Achieving the Dream approach and guidance from network coaches, the institutions are implementing student support programs: college-readiness programs, mandatory new student orientation, student success courses, development course re-design, curriculum re-design and advising.

Cindy Lenhart, VP for community college relations at Achieving the Dream, said becoming a Leader College affirms the exceptional work and commitment of faculty and staff to their students’ success.

“These colleges are using evidence to make informed decisions that lead to significant institutional change,” Lenhart said.

The Leader College designation last for three years before a community college must go through a re-certification process.

Success programs

Both GRCC and MCC have been active in the Achieving the Dream network since 2010.

Steven Ender, president at GRCC, said the community college is thrilled to be recognized as a Leader College.

“Our collaborative partnership with Achieving the Dream has strengthened our ability to stay true to our mission of being an open-access college that prepares individuals to attain their goals and contribute to the community,” Ender said. “Our progress has been slow, but steady, with the college seeing increase in most measures.”

GRCC has implemented a number of intervention programs to support student success: Alpha Beta Omega, leadership and mentoring for African-American males; FastTrack for college success; increasing support to Latino students; and retention of undecided students.

Dale Nesbary, president at MCC, said the school is gratified to learn it has been named an Achieving the Dream Leader College.

“The hard and smart work by our faculty and staff has improved persistence and retention ranks among our students and will assist our ability to support the talent requirements of our businesses and community for years to come,” Nesbary sais.

MCC has also been leveraging a number of intervention and other programs to promote improved student outcomes: ALP English; faculty professional development; Fast Track math; high-impact focus areas for new developmental students; revised college success seminar; student orientatio;  and credentials to careers.

National network

Established in 2004 as an initiative by the Lumina Foundation and seven partner organizations, Silver Spring, Md.-based Achieving the Dream now has a network of more than 200 institutions in higher education, 100 coaches and advisors and roughly 15 state policy teams.

The national network has a vision to lead a comprehensive, evidence-based reform movement for community college student success and focuses primarily on helping low-income students and students of color stay in school. 

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