Upon learning that 82 percent of Phi Theta Kappa members in Louisiana go on to complete a degree and/or transfer to a four-year college, administrators at the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) knew they had to act.
Twelve of the LCTCS’ 13 community colleges now have Phi Theta Kappa chapters, with two of those chapters being chartered in early 2015. Dr. Derrick Manns, Executive Vice Chancellor at Fletcher Technical and Community College in Schriever, Louisiana, is the co-advisor of one of the newest ones — Beta Tau Rho.
“When you see that Louisiana has about a 30 percent success rate, and then look at students who come through a Phi Theta Kappa chapter with an 82 percent success rate, that’s just phenomenal in terms of reach, contact and success,” said Manns, the former Vice President for Academic Affairs at LCTCS. “You can’t compete with that.
“Anything with that high of a success rate is something that should be modeled and supported across the state.”
In 2014, Phi Theta Kappa conducted a 50-state survey of student success from a random sample of more than 14,000 Phi Theta Kappa members. The students studied were inducted as Phi Theta Kappa members in 2009 and were pulled randomly from the Society’s membership database.
Using matching datasets from the National Student Clearinghouse Student Tracker Database, it was determined that the completion rate for Phi Theta Kappa members was 83 percent and the transfer-out rate was 9 percent, giving the members an overall success rate of 91 percent.
“Honestly, I was stunned at the results,” said Phi Theta Kappa’s Interim Executive Director Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. “We knew Phi Theta Kappa was making a positive impact in the success rate of its members, but we had no idea the difference would be this remarkable.”
The research was further broken down by state and distributed to community college presidents and administrators across the country. LCTCS administrators, following a meeting with Phi Theta Kappa staff members, were spurred to action.
The system allocates a full-time staff member — currently Emily Saleh, Executive Director of Enrollment Management and Student Development — to assist campuses in chapter development and statewide initiatives. The system also helps organize the All-Louisiana Community College Academic Team recognition luncheon each year to recognize scholarship winners in Phi Theta Kappa’s All-State program.
LCTCS is also letting data drive its steps forward. Its “Louisiana 2020” plan calls for the doubling of graduates and the quadrupling of student transfers to four-year universities by the year 2020. The plan seeks a drastic increase in student success in terms of completion and transfer.
“To accomplish these ambitious goals, programs with a proven track record of student success must be invested in,” Saleh said. “The state’s Phi Theta Kappa chapters can play a pivotal role in the realization of the ‘Louisiana 2020′ goals by continuing to grow their membership.
“Recognizing students who are excelling academically engenders a culture of scholarship within a college, which in turn promotes engagement and ultimately student success.”
Manns’ chapter inducted more than 70 members this year. Now his focus — like that of his fellow advisors across the state — is to increase awareness. Building his chapter’s infrastructure to get involved in programs like the Five Star Chapter Plan and C4; promoting the networking and camaraderie that comes with membership; advertising the opportunities to receive scholarships and to develop leadership skills — these are the next steps in the move to bump Louisiana’s student success rate even higher.
“Louisiana is a great example of how our student success data can be used to strengthen opportunities for all community college students, not just Phi Theta Kappa members,” Tincher-Ladner said. “When you have a state community college system engaging with organizations like ours that promote student success and college completion, other organizations start to take notice.”
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge is one such organization. In fall 2014, LSU awarded one incoming student with a Tiger Transfer: Phi Theta Kappa scholarship; in fall 2015, the number of recipients increased to three. The scholarship is valued at $5,000 per year, and as long as the recipients maintain the retention requirements, they will continue to receive the award each year until the completion of their undergraduate education.
Tulane University in New Orleans, Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport and the University of Louisiana in Monroe also offer transfer scholarships to Phi Theta Kappa members. Nationwide, transfer scholarships totaling more than $37 million are available exclusively for Phi Theta Kappa members to more than 700 four-year colleges and universities.
“From a recruiting perspective, Phi Theta Kappa members are considered the ‘blue chip’ or top prospects on their respective community college campuses,” said Heather Schmidt, Admissions Counselor/Transfer at LSU. “The Tiger Transfer: Phi Theta Kappa scholarship is one way for LSU to invest in students who are sure to be an asset to our campus community.
“But whether a member of Phi Theta Kappa or not, all students attending a community college with an active chapter of Phi Theta Kappa on campus will benefit as their institution develops and fosters a culture of completion.”