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Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education

Others should follow Central CC's lead in finding and engaging 'near completers'

Commentary by Marshall A. Hill, Executive Director, Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education

Nebraska fares well in many measures of educational attainment. But we are leaving too many students behind, among them students who have demonstrated considerable interest and capability.

This article  (may require login) from the Chronicle of Higher Education describes efforts to reach students who have come close to completing postsecondary certificates and degrees but, for whatever reason, have not done so. Making extra efforts to encourage those students to complete their studies could rather quickly result in an increased number of Nebraskans who have attained a postsecondary credential.

One of our institutions has demonstrated good results from such an approach. In 2005 and again in 2008, Central Community College examined its students’ records to identify the “near completers” mentioned above. Those students were made aware of how close they were to finishing and were guided toward the courses that they needed. Central also discovered students who had completed all courses needed for earning a certificate or degree, but had not, for various reasons, received an award.

In 2005 Central increased the number of certificates and degrees it awarded by 39.5 percent and in 2008 by 32.8 percent. The challenges described in the Chronicle article are real. But if one of our institutions can have such impressive results, others can likely show gains, as well. Doing so will increase the “knowledge capital” of our state, provide proper acknowledgement for academic work completed, and make more apparent to business and industry the educational attainment of Nebraska’s workforce.