RICHMOND — Virginia’s Community Colleges are off to a promising start in their quest to triple the number of credentials students earn annually by the year 2021. As the VCCS celebrates its 50th anniversary, the 2016 class was the most successful in history, reaching record numbers for both individual graduates and credentials earned. This past spring’s graduations also represented the end of the first year of the VCCS’s six-year statewide strategic plan, Complete 2021, which established the goal of tripling credentials.
All told, Virginia’s Community Colleges saw a 7.6% increase in degrees, certificates and diplomas earned, from 31,194 to 33,580 – and a 5.2% increase in the number of individual graduates, from 25,562 to 26,899. There were significant increases in certain groups driving those record numbers including:
•A 14% increase in the number of Hispanic/Latino graduates;
•An 11.4% increase in the number of so-called traditional-age graduates, those between the ages of 18 and 24; and
•A 9% increase in the number of graduates who are the first in their family to attend and graduate college – in fact, first generation students earned one out of every five awards earned by the 2016 class.
There was also a smaller, though notable, increase of 6.5% in the number of men graduating. Traditionally, men pursue and complete postsecondary credentials at rates well below that of women. Today, men make up just more than 41% of the total VCCS enrollment.
The graduation numbers above do not include the more than 13,000 industry-certified credentials earned by VCCS students in short-term workforce training programs last year. Those programs operate outside of a traditional academic calendar and are counted separately.
“With a focus on student success, we are helping more individuals overcome the barriers that can prevent them from earning a postsecondary credential, the passport that is essential today to pursuing the American Dream,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Much work remains, however, if we are going to reach that tripling goal of Complete 2021 and truly prepare individuals for the new Virginia economy.”
No one, perhaps, better personifies that pursuit of the American Dream better than Augusto “Gus” Infantas, 22, who became the first in his family to attend and graduate college when he earned his degree last May from Northern Virginia Community College.
Infantas was born in Peru but raised in America. The sometimes-frustrating process of obtaining legal residency, and a lack of resources, delayed his pursuit of a college education. Instead, he began working fulltime to support his family. He wasn’t sure what to think by the time he made it to campus.
“As a very non-traditional student, I was nervous going into college; I was older and working two jobs all through school. But the diversity of people, thoughts and ideas made me comfortable. I was encouraged by faculty and other students to succeed. They motivated me to reach toward my goals,” said Infantas.
Infantas is now studying finance at the University of Virginia. “NVCC really sets students up for success,” he added. “You just have to be willing to work for it.”
Featured image: Augusto “Gus” Infantas graduated from Northern Virginia Community College last May before transferring to the University of Virginia.
About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve approximately 340,000 students each year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu. To share a story about how community colleges change lives, visit 50.vccs.edu.