Wake Tech to Examine Ways to Boost Graduation Rates

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May 26th, 2011


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Gates Foundation Grant Will Help More Community Colleges Better Serve Students

RALEIGH, N.C. (May 26, 2011) - Wake Technical Community College is one of five North Carolina community colleges that will participate in a national effort to help more young people obtain a degree, certificate or credential. Wake Tech, Guilford Tech, Central Piedmont, Martin and Davidson community colleges will share a $500,000 planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The colleges were selected for the five-year Completion by Design project because of their innovative ideas on improving the completion rates on their campuses. Colleges from four states were picked after a rigorous competition that was announced last October at the White House Summit on Community Colleges.

"College completion is a high priority for Wake Tech because it is tied to getting a good paying job," says Wake Tech President Dr. Stephen Scott. "All types of Wake Tech credentials are valuable in the Research Triangle region."

Completion by Design aims to build on proven, existing practices already underway at these forward-thinking community colleges which are already working to address the needs of today's students. They are doing this by focusing on new approaches to areas such as financial aid counseling, course scheduling and advising.

Today, community colleges serve nearly 11 million students, and enrollment has surged as the recession caused many Americans to return for additional training and education. Community colleges also are evolving to serve today's students, who often are older and work full- or part-time to support families while attending school to obtain a degree or credential, respectively.

But too many students never finish. According recent federal data, just 22 percent of first-time, full-time students in community college graduate in three years. For Hispanics and African-Americans, the rates are even worse, at 17 percent and 14 percent.

Solving this problem is important for our students, our economy and our country. A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that, by 2018, 63 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. The report also shows that, without a dramatic change in course, the labor market will be short 3 million educated workers over the next eight years.

Wake Tech will focus on a college-wide transformation to create a culture with the priority on student completion. The college will utilize data-based decision-making processes to gauge student progress toward completion. For Wake Tech, Completion by Design complements the Gates-funded Partners for Postsecondary Success initiative within the City of Raleigh. "Completion is not just the latest buzzword," says Wake Tech Senior Vice President Bryan Ryan, "College completion is critically important for our local, regional, and national global competitiveness."

"We believe that the today's students-particularly low-income students-need smarter, affordable postsecondary options that lead to high-quality outcomes," said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation. "Completion by Design aims to give them that, and we are excited to support the innovative work being conducted by these outstanding colleges."

About Wake Technical Community College:

Wake Technical Community College is North Carolina's second largest community college, serving more than 63,000 students annually with five campuses, two training centers, multiple community sites, and a comprehensive array of distance learning options. Wake Tech is fully accredited and offers more than 165 associate's degrees, diplomas, and certificates that prepare students for university transfer or immediate employment. Wake Tech also offers non-credit continuing education programs: customized workforce training, small business support, public safety officer training, basic skills courses such as English as a Second Language and high school equivalency preparation, and other courses for personal enrichment. For more information, visit www.waketech.edu .

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org or join the conversation at Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/billmelindagatesfoundation?ref=ts ) and Twitter ( http://twitter.com/gatesfoundation ).

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