Recent statewide Community College Completion Corps (C4) events in seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania — led 16,156 two-year college students, faculty and staff members, and community college administrators and trustees to sign the pledge to complete their associate degrees or support students in their completion efforts.
Most of these statewide events were held the week of October 19-23; Indiana’s completion events were held earlier in the fall semester, and Delaware’s was held November 9-13. In addition, the Florida Region has issued a challenge for its chapters to hold C4 events throughout the fall. Twenty-five chapters are participating in the Florida Regional C4 Challenge.
“This is huge,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, Interim Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa. “We were proud to partner with these states to promote the completion of a college credential, and it is our hope that these completion events will be the start of an important conversation among students, faculty and staff, college administrators and trustees, and community leaders.
“Our goal is to support students and educate them on the importance of completing their education in order to earn the credentials needed to build a stronger workforce throughout our country.”
New Jersey led the pack with 7,669 commitments. The state’s 19 community colleges held more than 144 completion-based events and activities throughout the week as part of the state’s third annual Phi Theta Kappa Community College Completion Challenge. The event is a partnership among the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges’ Center for Student Success and Kean University.
“I believe working with all stakeholders from the communities the colleges serve and the legislators who represent them sends a message that we must do everything we can to promote and support completion,” said Pattie Van Atter, Regional Coordinator of the Middle States Region. “Completion helps the economy, our families and our country.”
Another state in the Middle States Region — Pennsylvania — also held statewide events October 19-23. The state’s 14 community colleges planned more than 84 completion events on 23 campuses and gathered 4,756 commitments.
All states in the Middle States Region now have their own C4 Advisory Boards consisting of their state association, college presidents, chapter advisors, officers, alumni and associate and regional coordinators. Van Atter says the next step, a Regional C4 Week encompassing all of the region’s geographic locations, is being planned for 2016.
“When an entire college community and state are promoting the benefits of completion, no one is left behind,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to build a culture of completion.
“If every student maintains the promise of ‘each one helps one,’ then they can make a difference beyond increasing the statistics.”
Connecticut held its first statewide completion event and saw participation from all 12 of its community colleges plus one private college, Goodwin College. More than 1,400 students signed pledges to complete.
Michelle Coach, New England Regional Coordinator, said the statewide effort reinvigorated some chapters that hadn’t been as active in past years, sparking discussions on topics beyond college completion. The event also proved to be a valuable way to spread Phi Theta Kappa awareness on all 12 campuses and among Connecticut’s college presidents.
“These events bring the campus together for a common goal and get students thinking about completion,” she said. “Awareness is key, and it helps students focus on a goal for themselves. This goal will make each of them a more marketable individual.”
Jack Bryant, President of Redlands Community College in Oklahoma, was eager for his college to participate in his state’s completion initiative. As a first-generation college graduate, he knows first-hand how much the completion of an associate degree can help in the pursuit of higher education goals.
Bryant is also a Phi Theta Kappa alumnus and has seen the value that the organization provides its members, colleges and communities.
“I hope the initiative catches the eye of our state legislators, helping them to understand the importance of the role our community colleges have in the mission in our state to produce a better-educated workforce,” he said. “As state revenues and funding continue to shrink, I think it is vital for our community college system to show the positive impact we have, both financially and economically on our students, our state and our nation.”
Caryl Gibbs, co-advisor to the Alpha Eta Alpha Chapter at Rose State College in Oklahoma, said her chapter has been participating in the C4 initiative since 2012, when it gathered more than 400 commitments as part of its first signing event. Jumping in on the statewide effort was a no-brainer.
“The most important impact of this will be to raise awareness of the challenges that we as community college faculty and administrators face when it comes to completion,” she said. “It also raises awareness among students, helping them see the value that we place on their completion and their success.
“Phi Theta Kappa students already embody the spirit of completion and excellence. And for the other 99 percent of the students, they are able to see their peers taking completion seriously, and that may inspire them to stick with it and complete their credentials as well.”