Destination Bound: Choose. Connect. Complete., the Wharton County Junior College (WCJC) Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), is focused on promoting student success by providing students with the knowledge, skills, and support systems to effectively navigate through their college career. The overarching goal of the WCJC QEP is to enhance student success by providing access to resources that will allow students to become more intentional in their ability to:
- Choose an academic pathway based on career goals, personal interests, and labor market values;
- Connect with the college through utilization of appropriate college services;
- Complete a major pathway in less time by improving persistence, graduation, and transfer rates.
The selection of Destination Bound:Choose. Connect. Complete. as the WCJC QEP topic occurred following the consideration of strategic priorities arising from the institution’s ongoing planning process and a comprehensive analysis of WCJC student success data, including enrollment, retention, and completion measures. The data reviewed indicated that WCJC first-time in college students were under-performing on several key success metrics, with only 25% of students completing 30 semester credit hours in their first year, a Fall-to-Fall persistence rate of 55%, and a three-year graduation rate of 18%. In addition, student perception of various support services indicated a need for improvement, with 31% of students responding that they didn’t feel that they received the support they needed to be successful.
The findings from this data analysis were further bolstered through the inclusion of broad-based input from multiple institutional constituencies, specifically faculty, staff, and students, through the use of focus groups and surveys. Feedback was solicited regarding those areas most in need of improvement, specifically services and resources related to student persistence and success. From this inquiry process, themes arose related to the need to refine processes for pathway selection for incoming students, augment support services through the further enhancement of proactive advising strategies, and improve student completion metrics, specifically with regard to college credit completion, student retention, and graduation and transfer rates.
The target population for Destination Bound:Choose. Connect. Complete. will include all First-Time in College students, thus ensuring that the QEP will directly influence a significant portion of the WCJC student body while maintaining a cohort size that is able to be monitored and managed effectively.
The central Student Success Outcome for the WCJC QEP seeks to improve student persistence, graduation, and/or transfer rates by providing students with access to resources that will allow them to:
- Apply information, including career goals, personal interests, and labor market values, when choosing a major pathway;
- Utilize technology to monitor progress toward achieving their academic goals; and
- Be aware of and more readily use college services through enhanced personal connections with professional advisors and pathway coaches.
In order to achieve this Student Success Outcome, modifications must be made to the educational environment at WCJC. Environmental Outcomes associated with the WCJC QEP include:
- The promotion of a culture of informed pathway selection through the use of career exploration and skills assessment tools.
- The enhancement of communication between students, faculty, and staff through the use of a multi-functional technology program.
- The refinement of current advising practices to increase the use of proactive advising methods, specifically among professional advisors and pathway coaches.
A series of strategies, based on best practices in the areas of student experience and student success, have been identified to help achieve the outcomes associated with Destination Bound: Choose. Connect. Complete. First, career exploration, skills assessment, and labor market informational tools will be incorporated into various recruitment, admissions, and onboarding activities to provide students with the data they need to make informed decisions when selecting a major pathway.
Second, WCJC will implement a multi-functional technology platform, EAB Navigate, to proactively connect students, faculty, and staff. This platform will be used to enhance communication between WCJC faculty and staff and WCJC students through the use of notifications and early alerts. In addition, students will be able to monitor their individual progress along their pathway and engage directly with support service personnel using the Navigate system.
Finally, students in the QEP cohort will be assigned to a professional advisor and/or pathway coach who will help them effectively traverse through their college career at WCJC. Professional development sessions will be provided to all vocational and academic faculty to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to effectively coach students as they progress toward their individual completion goals.
A distinct set of tasks, complete with responsible parties and timelines, have been developed for the implementation of Destination Bound: Choose. Connect. Complete. In addition, the institution has identified necessary resources, including the purchase of EAB Navigate software, hiring of additional staff, marketing, professional development, and travel. A detailed QEP budget has been approved and funded to ensure the financial viability of the plan.
Efficacy of Destination Bound: Choose. Connect. Complete. will be continually assessed through the analysis of success metrics. Direct measures, including average number of student advising sessions and percentage of faculty trained, will be evaluated along with indirect metrics, such as student satisfaction with support services, to determine which aspects of the plan are successful and in what ways the plan can be improved or enhanced. In addition, several overarching Key Performance Indicators, such as timely completion of gateway courses, accrual of college credit, persistence rates, and graduation/transfer rates, will be used to holistically review progress toward the achievement of the overarching QEP goal of enhanced student success.
WCJC is an institution that emphasizes personal attention to students and the provision of services and opportunities that promote student success. The goals, outcomes, and strategies associated with the WCJC QEP underscore this core institutional priority by providing our students with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to Choose. Connect. Complete.