Ohio Colleges Continue the Search for Success


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Suc·cess; noun

  1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.
  2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
  3. performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors
  4. person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.
  5. obsolete

It's not just in the dictionary where that word has multiple meanings. In the world of higher education, the process of creating successful students seems to be pretty complex.

On Monday, ideastream's daily talk show The Sound of Ideas looked at how a few of Ohio’s colleges and universities are measuring success. The state’s new higher educational funding plan links schools’ funding to their performance and graduation rates, making campuses focus their attention on figuring out the best ways to help students to get ahead.

Guests included:

  • Ronald Berkman, President of Cleveland State University
  • Morris Beverage, President of Lakeland Community College
  • Alex Johnson, President of Cuyahoga Community College
  • Cheryl Rice, Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management at Stark State College

The panel's conversation centered around navigating a higher education system where sometimes, a degree doesn't necessarily mean that a student will land a good, well paying job.

One way that higher education institutions define success is by looking at graduation rates, making schools take a closer look at how to increase or sustain that number.

In 2004, only 30 percent of freshmen who entered Cleveland State University graduated within six years.  While Berkman said that that figure is skewed by students who drop down to part-time status, take a break, or transfer to another school, he did acknowledge that his students have faced some roadblocks in the past, like gaining more credit hours then necessary for graduation.

“There are a lot of students, I believe, who have come into the university and have encountered obstacles that have prevented them from moving along at a pace that will allow them to be successful," Berkman said.

To counterbalance those challenges, Berkman said that the school has recently announced a more incentive-driven, restructured program to help students focus on progress. Most programs now cap graduation credit hours at 120 hours, and credits that are over 16 hours per semester are free. The idea is that these efforts will help students achieve a quality diploma more quickly—and more cheapily.

As economics go, community colleges are often looked at as a cheaper way to acheive a degree, but those campuses have a slightly different set of challenges. Students could be living with a different set of circumstances than their four-year counterparts, said Lakeland Community College President Morris Beverage.

He mentioned that community college students are similiar to that of a four-year student, but he's found that his students sometimes struggle more because they tend to deal with serious issues in their personal lives, like being in a lower socioeconomical status and dealing with traumatic childhood experiences. His campus tries to create a connection with students early on to help create a one-on-one connection that could make a difference in their learning experience.

"These students typically coming from familes whose parents did not go to college," Beverage said. "So, not only are they coming to us accdemically unprepared, but they also don't have the knowledge of the higher ed system. And that becomes a real problem for them."

Listen to the show here.

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