College president Kojo Quartey believes in the power of education.
While a successful education can be measured in different ways, a college’s success often is measured through retention, transfer and graduation rates.
MCCC’s completion rate is at 14 percent, as of the Winter 2015-16 cohort, while the average for college’s similar to MCCC is at 25 percent.
“But, I don’t think that’s the only way to measure success at a community college,” Quartey said. “You want to look at the percentage of students who complete as well as the majority of students who transfer.”
The completion rate is one of the biggest challenges many community college’s face.
“The majority of community college students come here so they can take some courses and then transfer out, so that’s the measure of success for us,” Quartey said.
The percentage of students who graduate is affected by the many students who transfer; which accounts for the college’s low retention rate.
Transferring is made easy due to the successful partnerships with universities like Siena Heights and Spring Arbor. Siena Heights even has an information room in the L Building.
Another issue facing retention is that many students have not found their passion yet.
“They come, they take a few courses, they get a job, they drop out of school, and they go to work,” Quartey said. “So we are not retaining as many students as we used to, but we do have an enrollment management plan overall.”
To combat low rates, MCCC has established a retention committee as well as a group that gets involved with the recruitment of new students.
Recruitment of new students is important to every institution, but getting them to stay is another challenge.
“The number one factor to get students to stay,” Quartey said, “is customer service. How we treat them, it’s that simple.
“The number one reasons students stay in any institution is because somebody there knows them and cares about them.”
His mantra is simple; he never passes anyone without saying hello or smiling. A school is like a business; if the students are happy, they will more than likely return.
“I think what’s been happening over the last few years – a few students who come here just take some general education courses and some may transfer or they simply drop out because they find a job,” Quartey said.
General education courses are important to take, however, failing to choose a path of study early on hurts a student’s chance of those general education courses transferring.
In the case of former MCCC student Hallie LaPoint, only five of her 60 credits transferred to getting a degree in dietetics from Owens.
“My credits transferred well, but I didn’t need most of them, since they were all general and now that I’m in an actual program, I need a lot more specific stuff,” LaPoint said.
Students should talk to college advisors to get the information needed to successfully pick classes needed for an associate’s degree, as well as pair well with a specific major.
Advisers can be found either in the A Building or in the Whitman Center.
Former students who transferred before completing the 60 credits it takes to receive an associate’s degree should look into their current school’s relationship with the community college.
MCCC has reverse transfer agreements that allow students at four-year universities get their community college degree.
“You can transfer some of those hours back here and be awarded the associate degree,” Quartey said.
It’s important for a school to have those reverse transfer agreements, he said, because they create opportunities for students to work for higher pay. It also helps the community college develop partnerships with other institutions and drive their completion rate upwards.
“Not enough [students] come here and complete before they transfer out and that doesn’t help our completion numbers,” Quartey said.
“What’s unfortunate about it is they come here, they don’t complete here, they transfer to a four-year institution and it doesn’t help their completion numbers either. So we lose here and the four year institution loses.”
The only graduation numbers that are counted by the federal government are first-time freshman who start in the fall and complete in three years. These numbers are captured on the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).
Current student Christine Stanton has 31 credits and said she plans on graduating.
“Yes, I am planning on getting my associates. It looks good on job applications and the median salary for people who have one is $50,000,” Stanton said.
An education can prepare a student for the future, but it is up to the student to decide on what that future will look like.
“If we make any decisions around here that don’t positively impact student success, then those are the wrong decisions,” Quartey said. “Everything we do here is about the students.”
Quartey said the most important work MCCC does is not teaching – it is inspiring students to dream those big dreams, and getting them to believe, first and foremost, in themselves.
He believes those who take the time to graduate from MCCC are putting themselves ahead of their peers who have not yet done so.
“I would encourage students to please stay, get something,” Quartey said.
In the end, a school depends on its students to transfer at the right time and to graduate.