50%+ LBW students graduate in 6 years

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Slightly more than half of all LBWCC students completed their program of study, or transferred within six years, officials said Tuesday.

Over the last five years, LBWCC has awarded 1,124 associate degrees and 807 certificates, which include both short-term and long-term certificates, for a total of 1,931 awards.

According to the University of Alabama Education Policy Center survey of community college leaders in more than 42 states, it was determined that degree completion rates at community colleges in most states have declined or remained flat since 2012, and three of four community colleges do not have state operating budget plans to increase degree and certificate completion.

Renee LeMaire, public information officer for LBWCC, said she felt it was important to explain that although the national statistics reflect first-time full-time student information, LBWCC’s student body is composed of a variety of students – not all first-time students, not all full-time students, yet completers nonetheless.

Additionally, some students complete college, but not within six years.

“Some students need a longer period of time to complete or transfer due to outside forces, such as financial struggles, working full-time while attending college or taking care of families,” LBWCC President Dr. Herb Riedel said. “In addition to attracting high academic achievers, community colleges also provide an educational avenue for those who may have been out of school a number of years or otherwise face academic challenges and need classes to prepare them for college-level courses. We also enroll students whose only goal is to complete a few courses and not pursue a degree or certificate.”

Riedel said as is the case across the nation, LBWCC officials are constantly seeking ways to help students be more successful.

“While some obstacles are not within our control, adequate funding is essential to provide staffing and programs to support student success,” he said.

Riedel said that state funding for community colleges had dropped continuously the past eight years presenting problems maintaining programs.

“With the spotlight in Alabama and across the nation currently highlighting the need for skilled workers in a variety of technical fields, consistently low funding jeopardizes the ability to maintain valuable programs and attract the best faculty,” he said. “We welcome the discussion about free community college tuition as has been suggested, but point out that tuition covers only a third of the cost of educating a students. In order to provide quality programs and services for a high-quality work force, adequate state funding is essential.”

Dr. Stephen Katsina, director of the Education Policy Center said that in 2013-2014, 14 predicted state appropriations wouldn’t cover inflation.

“For 2013-14, the number is 31, making it difficult to raise completions,” he said. “A new way forward is needed to jump-start degree completion, to make American No. 1 again in adult degree and certification completion.