The climb to completion, AC seeks to boost graduation rates:

By Emily Hernandez and Stevi Breshears:

Most Amarillo College degrees are designed to be completed in two or three years, but many students take more time to reach graduation day. Students may take longer to complete for various reasons.

Work and/or family responsibilities prevent them from taking more classes each semester, which ultimately keeps the students from being full-time and completing within the three year time period.

“Completion is defined as a certificate, degree or transfer,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president said, noting that when the college first began measuring, only 19 percent of AC students reached this milestone.

According to college officials, AC currently has a completion rate of 41 percent, with a goal of increasing that to 70 percent by the year 2020.

“The longer a student takes to complete their required degree courses, the less likely they are to graduate,” Ernesto Olmos, director of advising and coordinator of transfer services said. “We know that things can happen in three years that may prevent graduating, but just think how many things can happen if it takes six to eight years to graduate with an associate’s degree.”

  To graduate faster,  students can enroll in eight week courses at AC. This allows them to take more classes each semester, aiding the process. For example, a student may take two eight week courses the first eight weeks then two more the second eight weeks. This results in the enrollment of four courses spread out through the entire semester, rather than completing only two 16 week courses in a semester.

“Eight week classes allow students to balance out their academic and personal lives while staying on track,” Olmos said.

AC students also have a variety of resources to help them stay on track. According to Lowery-Hart, things like developmental education, social support, course redesign and tutoring services are all essential in creating a solid foundation for success.

“AC provides everything you would need to succeed in college, you just have to go out and find it,” business major Genie Barcroft said. “Own your learning.”

AC has also implemented a new tool called “Student Planning.” This allows advisers to plan a student’s entire course sequence from beginning to end. Students can view their entire plan from beginning to completion, previewing how long it may take if they choose to only take one or two courses a semester and/or what happens when students choose to drop courses. This helps students to stay on top of their educational plan, and stay focused on succeeding.

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