A national educational movement that started in 2009 is becoming more powerful and widespread each year, extending now from coast to coast. Complete College America is an initiative encouraging college students to earn their degrees as expeditiously and conscientiously as they can.
In the last decade, studies have shown students who create an aggressive educational plan and follow it are more likely to graduate than those who slowly and gradually move toward graduation. Perceptive educators have taken notice, and collectively have developed a movement that is becoming a wave.
I am fortunate to participate in this wave in several ways. I am part of a Central Valley consortium which is a strong proponent. I recently attended a national CCA conference in Chicago. And I have a granddaughter whose recent college graduation exemplifies this initiative.
Complete College America supports a number of approaches to help students advance toward their degrees in a timely way. It encourages college students, including those at community colleges, to take at least 15 units each semester. It creates new avenues for students to take university-level English and math in their first semesters, without going through remedial courses.
The Central Valley Higher Education Consortium (CVHEC), with members from Stockton to Bakersfield and comprising some 20 community colleges and universities, shares best practices from CCA among members to help students complete their associate and bachelor degrees expeditiously.
One young woman, who attended college in the East and exemplified the theme of completing college promptly, is my granddaughter, Hanna Spevak. Last month I attended her graduation from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., well within four years – in fact, at the midpoint of her third year.
Hanna told me that while attending a public high school in Reno, she was encouraged by her parents to enroll in advanced placement (AP) courses. By scoring high enough on the AP exams, she had accumulated 42 college credits – including 11 in Spanish – before graduating from high school. She also took a summer class before her first fall semester.
But then Hanna told me something I found even more crucial. “Once I got to college,” she said, “because I enjoy scheduling and organizing, I did a lot of planning – reading carefully the college catalog and each semester’s course schedule.”
Hanna made it a point to know exactly which courses were necessary in her major (sociology), her minor (Spanish) and her general education requirements. “I was constantly creating potential schedules for the upcoming semester,” she said, “so that when I met with my academic adviser, I knew exactly which classes I needed to take.”
Hanna credits her dad, Mike, an alumnus of Los Banos High and a graduate (in four years) of UC San Diego, for “constantly asking about my plans, schedules and classes. His persistence guided me to stay on track.”
She is also grateful to her mom, Karen, who supported her every step, including many trips from Reno to Rock Hill. Hanna said both parents encouraged her to fully enjoy her college experience.
Hanna’s story has some instructive points.
1) Success in college planning begins with planning in high school. Any student who can take AP or “dual enrollment” courses (in which they earn both high school and college credit) can get a big jump on college and a leg up on a timely graduation.
2) Students must take responsibility for their own education planning. That means knowing the college catalog and precisely which courses fulfill specific requirements in their majors.
3) College students need moral, academic and psychological support. Hanna was fortunate to have parents who had successfully navigated their way through college. Her academic advisers double-checked what she was doing and offered additional guidance.
Many high school and college students don’t have such advantages; others have different advantages. Complete College America offers proven ideas to help, encouraging colleges to work with parents of students and to provide mentors to students whenever possible.
I’m proud to be a part of the Complete College America movement.
IN MEMORIAM: Los Banos lost one of its most remarkable heroes when Pete Silva passed away this month. Pete served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, where he lost both legs in combat. He returned to Los Banos and raised a wonderful family. He never complained about his injuries. His indomitable spirit will live forever in the hearts of who knew him.
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.