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NVCC named a leader among community colleges

Completion rates are the bane of the community college. Even some of the most highly respected two-year colleges have degree attainment rates in the single digits. Many students go in; few come out. The majority become mired in remediation, or lose their way amid the pressures of family life and work.

So, the charts and graphs released this week by the nonprofit Achieving the Dream to plot the progress of Northern Virginia Community College stand out.

NVCC was cited Tuesday as one of seven Leader Colleges, for "demonstrating sustained improvement and accomplishments" in student achievement.

Remember those single-digit completion rates as you consider these stats:

The number of NVCC graduates has risen by about one-third since the 2005-06 academic year, from 2,928 that year to 3,978 in the 2009-10 academic year, according to college data.

Annual retention rates -- the share of students who return from one year to the next rather than drop out -- have risen from 44 percent in fall 2004 to 49 percent in fall 2008. For full-time students, retention is considerably higher.

The community college's official graduation rate -- the share of first-time, full-time students who graduate within three years -- remains a modest 13 percent, according to federal data. That's high for a community college, but low compared with most four-year colleges.

NVCC data show that 30 percent of students graduate within five years, and they project the rate to rise.

Community colleges are focusing on completion rates like never before, and their sector of higher education has come into focus since President Obama set a goal of regaining the world lead in college graduation by 2020.

The other Leader Colleges: Alamo Colleges in San Antonio, Texas; Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas; Capital Community College in Hartford, Conn.; Martin Community College in Williamston, N.C.; Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Penn.; and Yakima Valley Community College in Yakima, Wash.

The focus of Achieving the Dream is on creating a "culture of evidence" to identify problems that prevent students from graduating and potential solutions.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  July 29, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Administration , Attainment , Community Colleges , Public policy  | Tags: Achieving the Dream, Northern Virginia Community College, community college completion, community colleges  
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Community colleges do well during recessions. A bad job market keeps people in school. Besides, the vast majority of people who attend classes at community colleges aren't there as degree seeking students.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 30, 2010 4:17 AM | Report abuse


I'd always assumed the graduation rate for community colleges like NVCC was a lot higher than 30 percent. How does the graduation rate for brick and mortar community colleges compare with an online two year degree program from University of Phoenix's community college, Axia College?

I've heard the rumored graduation rate for online colleges is 24%. If Axia College and other two year degree programs are around that rate they don't seem like they're as out of step with brick and mortar community colleges as I'd previously thought.

Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | July 30, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I went to NVCC for a few Computer Information System (CIS)courses, and I was very impressed with the quality of the curriculum and teachers. I didn't graduate...I never meant to...I already had a BA and was just looking for some supplemental courses to get a job qualification for working in CIS. Still I considered my experience at NVCC a major success since it gave me the CIS skills that served me well for many years, and today. Congrats NVCC on the recognition, and keep up the good work.

Posted by: arrive2dotnet | July 30, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I earned a couple of degrees from NoVa. The first one was on the ten-year plan, but the second I accomplished in less than two years considering that less than 25% of my first degree's credits actually applied to the graduation requirements for the second degree. I went on to transfer to a four-year school, GMU, where I earned a pair of Bachelor degrees as well.

NoVa, in my opinion, is greatly underrated. If you're motivated to work, the quality of NoVa's classes is at least as good as the lower division classes at GMU.

Keep up the good work, NoVa.

Posted by: JoStalin | July 30, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

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