RENO Nev. – Nevada has been chosen as the first state to take part in a project designed to improve the nation’s college graduation rates and elevate the status of its work force to better compete in a global economy.
Funded by the Ford Foundation, “Educational Equity and Postsecondary Student Success” will focus on improving college completion rates particularly among minorities, low-income and first-generation students.
“We know that we have a population in Nevada that is increasingly both minority and low-income, and we have a number of initiatives ongoing right now to try to identify those students and figure out why they are not going to college, getting through college and out into the work force,” Dan Klaich, Nevada System of Higher Education chancellor, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
He said minorities, low-income students and students who would be the first in their families to go to college are most at risk of not entering college after high school or failing to complete their degrees if they do enroll.
Klaich said focusing on those groups as part of the overall effort is the right thing to do from a moral and economic standpoint.
“Every student has an innate ability to learn, and we have an obligation to give every student a chance to learn,” he said. “And, if you don’t believe in doing the right thing, then look at it as a pocketbook issue.”
“If students can’t get the education they need to enter the work force, they will wind up in the social system or the prisons, which is more expensive to our society in the long run than if we got them to lead productive lives,” Klaich said.
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a regional organization that coordinates efforts to improve higher education among 15 states, including Nevada, is working on the project in partnership with the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education.
Nevada was selected for the project because all seven of its public post-secondary educational institutions are under one administrative body. That allows researchers to look at issues affecting graduation rates from a systemwide perspective rather than from separate institutions, said Magdalena Martinez, the lead investigator on the project and the NSHE assistant vice chancellor.
“What the project hopes to do is look at student data over the course of six years to have a better understanding of what are the points of critical success, where are those points at which we are losing students, what are the interventions that will best facilitate student success, and how do we align our policies so that student success increases,” she said.
Martinez said research has shown that, even when students enter college academically prepared, a large number do not complete college.
“This project will look at why they don’t by looking at the critical milestones in their educational trajectory,” she said. “By doing that, we might be better able to identify interventions that will help them be successful.”