How Georgia State Reforms Closed Racial and Ethnic Completion Gaps: it Can be Done

28 Nov 2018

Two leaders from Georgia State University came to Long Beach on Nov. 15 to talk about reforms that are credited with raising graduation rates campuswide above 75%. In fact, Latinx and African American students at GSU are now doing slightly better than their white counterparts. “Closing the Achievement Gap,” an event organized by Career Ladders Project and sponsored by The James Irvine Foundation at Long Beach City College, explored colleges’ efforts to achieve equity. 

Elisha Jarrett and Crystal Mitchell, both directors of advising at GSU, credited student support reforms, careful data analysis, and strong institutional leadership (here is their presentation).

Participants also learned how Skyline College more than doubled its completion rate and how Bakersfield College increased African American participation in key supports using student data and proactive counseling. 

Angélica Garcia, Vice President of Student Services at Skyline College, said her campus now identifies as “student-ready,” in line with the statewide move away from talking about “college-ready” community college students. Its completion rate has risen from 11% in 2008 to 26% this year, Garcia said. She credited a variety of changes in student supports and the emulation of the City University of New York’s ASAP program. (Skyline College plans to request proposals soon from additional colleges that would like to participate and will select three.) She said Skyline College’s success depends on equity-minded practice but goes a step further.

“I believe that colleges and those of us who sit in these seats have to be about anti-racist practice,” Garcia said. “And we believed that if the Guided Pathways reforms were going to be effective across the institution, they couldn’t be owned just by faculty or advising.”

Julian West, now a director at Career Ladders Project and formerly an advisor at Bakersfield College, spoke about its data-driven completion coaching teams, which monitor student progress at “momentum points” — key milestones on each student’s journey, such as completion of 15 units or completion of college-level math and English.

Bakersfield’s completion teams look for patterns and they tailor services to address concerns that arise. Using data they can find, and approach, specific students who are meeting challenges and provide them with direct and proactive supports, rather than waiting until a student decides to seek help.

At GSU, Jarrett and Mitchell said, the six-year completion rate for Latinx students has more than tripled since 2008, rising to 76.7% from 22%; the rate for African American students rose even higher, to 77.5% from 25.6%; and the rate for white students more than doubled to 76.4% from 31.6%.

Speakers included:

  • Elisha Jarrett, Director of the University Advisement Center, Atlanta Campus and Crystal S. Mitchell, Director of Perimeter College@GSU,
  • Angélica Garcia, Vice President of Student Services at Skyline College
  • Julian West, now a director at Career Ladders Project and formerly an advisor at Bakersfield College