Smith: Students are MCC's pride and joy

McHenry County College recently was acknowledged by two national organizations for our accomplishments in student success.

In higher education circles, the success of the institution is measured in a variety of ways, but the most important way is how successful our students are.

For MCC, student success is at the core of all we do. This tenet also is at the center of our mission, which states: “Our focus is learning. Student success is our goal.”

The efforts of our faculty, staff, administration and board hone in on how best we can ensure our students are successful. At the college, we define student success as the individual attaining a degree, certificate or the high skills that will allow them to obtain a high-paying job. Through our planning processes, the college determines how our fiscal, physical and human resources need to be allocated so the number of our students who are successful continues to increase.

We know our efforts are working because over the past five years the number of students awarded degrees and certificates has increased by 52 percent, from 777 to 1,495.

Ensuring students are successful is not a simple task. I want to share a few of the activities, initiatives and partnerships the MCC family undertakes each day that data show help increase students’ success.

The first is our College and Career Readiness program, which is a partnership of all the high school and middle school districts and the college. The partnership alliance meets monthly. Over the past four years, using math refresher courses, an articulated developmental math program for the fourth year of high school math and articulation workshops between high school and college faculty, the number of high school graduates that need to take remedial math at the college has decreased by 14 percent from 57 percent in fiscal 2010 to 43 percent in fiscal 2013.

The college also holds summer academies for middle and high school students who score below the recommended cut score for math and English. Over the four years, the participation in these academies has increased by 491 percent.

The First-Year Experience initiative for first-time MCC students is a series of interventions, early alerts and college skill-building sessions. The First-Year Experience starts with student/parent orientations and a new-student convocation. It continues with College Experience and Study Skills courses, in-house and online tutoring assistance and academic skills coaching. Students who participate in the College Experience course average a fall-to-spring persistence rate of 86 percent (this is very good). They also have a 20 percent higher fall-to-fall persistence rate when compared with students in other baccalaureate-oriented courses.

The last activity I want to share is the college’s free tutoring and supplemental instruction. Students who receive tutoring at least five times in the semester have a 20 percent higher success rate in the tutored subjects over their nontutored subjects. And those students who utilize the peer-assisted supplemental instruction study sessions have increased retention and graduation rates.

We know that MCC is doing a wonderful job toward increasing the number of our residents who are successful in higher education, but it is nice to know that other recognize this, too.

The Aspen Institute for College Excellence identified McHenry County College as one of the top 150 community colleges in the country in delivering exceptional student results and outcomes. At the invitation of the institute, the college submitted an application as part of the process toward the Aspen Prize, a prize of $1 million. We knew we are on our way to potentially winning the prize when we made it to round two (the top 50 community colleges in the country.) We will know if we make it to the next round in early September.

Another valuation occurred this month when CNN and College Measures identified MCC as fourth in the state of Illinois and first in northern Illinois in terms of our completion rate. Our completion rate was 57 percent. This rate includes the number of our students who graduate and/or transfer to a four-year institution, or are still enrolled.

As you would expect, all of the MCC family is thrilled that our hard work to make sure our students are successful is being acknowledged.

We are very proud.

• Vicky Smith is president of McHenry County College.

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