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Virginia’s Community Colleges Launching Plan to Boost Student Retention and Completion

RICHMOND – Faculty and staff members at Virginia’s Community Colleges will be working closer with their students to more accurately determine their academic and career goals and to ultimately help guide them across the finish line. Attaining the education and credentials they need will enable students to become more employable, higher paid, and stronger contributors to the workforce and community.

According to the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, only 38% of VCCS first-time- in-college students complete an academic credential or continue their education as transfer students after four years. Data analyses indicate that low fall-to-fall retention is a significant reason that completion rates are so low.

“We want to help more students complete their journey toward a postsecondary credential,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We’re not helping students who leave us only with a bag of credits. The credential is what holds value in the marketplace.”

During the 2015-16 academic year, Virginia’s Community Colleges established a Student Success Leadership Institute designed to develop collaborative leadership teams – including leaders from all levels – and empower those teams to create a compelling and clear action plan for enhancing the overall student experience and increasing the number of students who earn certificates, workforce credentials or associate degrees.

As part of that action plan, and in accordance with the 50th anniversary of Virginia’s Community Colleges, Chancellor Glenn Dubois will lead a listening tour during the 2016-2017 academic year to gather information from our 23 colleges on best practices for student success.

“We will continue to engage and enable our colleges and provide them with the technical and functional support that they need to do this work,” said Dr. Sharon Morrissey, vice chancellor for academic services and research. “We’ve done this in pockets but we’re talking about changing that conversation to one that is more of a continuum of student success as opposed to one-off initiatives that address very small populations.”

By 2018, Morrissey says the action plans should be fully implemented and the programmatic, process, and policy changes designed to improve student success outcomes should be part of each college’s culture.

“What we’re doing is taking a step back and celebrating our last 50 years and we’re looking forward to say how we can improve the things that we do that support the overall student experience for the students that we have today,” said Shauna Davis, executive director of the Student Success Center, which is being funded by a grant from the Kresge Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Virginia’s Community Colleges will continue to evaluate student success outcomes to identify and share the strategies that have the greatest impact on increases in student retention, progress, and completion.

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 400,000 students each year. For more information, please visit To share a story about how community colleges change lives, visit