Programs combat low college completion

Laura Pierson

Staff Writer

Barely over one-third of the students enrolled in Hudson Valley will graduate with a degree or certificate. Hudson Valley has a six-year graduation rate of 39 percent

This statistic is not unusual for local community colleges. Hudson Valley’s completion rate is only barely above Schenectady County Community College’s rate of 34 percent, and a bit under Columbia-Greene’s rate of 43 percent.

Many factors determine the completion rate such as: students attending Hudson Valley may not intend to graduate, may take classes to further job training, or intend to transfer to another school before receiving a degree from the Troy campus.

“The college is most concerned with helping students reach their individual goals, whether that be the completion of a course or two, or the completion of a degree or certificate program,” said Dennis Kennedy, executive director of communications and marketing.

“The student could be pursuing a bachelor degree for which we don’t have a parallel associate degree,” said Kelly Sweener, director of student development, addressing why a student might transfer before earning their degree. Sweener added that students could also be eager to get to a four-year college for to simply have an away-from-home experience.

The academic requirements of some schools to participate in athletics are also a factor for which a student would start at Hudson Valley but plan on transferring before receiving their degree.

Sweener said that most colleges across the nation look at whether a college is accredited instead of whether it is a community college. She said, “because [Hudson Valley is] accredited, our [programs] are widely transferable.”

“My area of study is not offered at Hudson Valley,” said Elisabeth Good, individual studies major. She plans on transferring for the fall 2015 semester before receiving her associate degree to an unspecified SUNY school.

“I want to learn as much as I can and take advantage of the resources around me while I have the opportunity, resources that are not available to me at Hudson Valley,” she added.

Many students drop out of Hudson Valley for a variety of personal, financial, and academic reasons. Hudson Valley encourages students to stay in college through numerous retention efforts.

David Clickner, Director of the Learning Centers, said, “When we think about college completion we look at the completion, retention and persistence of all students,” said Clickner, Director of the Learning Centers, who stressed that the college’s retention programs don’t always have bearing on student’s academics but instead “increase the depth and breadth of understanding [of all students].”

Some of the retention programs offered at the college include the Summer Readiness Program for high school students preparing to enter college.

Also included in the college’s retention efforts was the College Completion Day hosted on Oct. 8, organized by Gayle Healy, director of the center for careers and employment, and Louis Coplin, director of student life. Healy explained, “This was our third Completion Day. Originally, it was an initiative of the SUNY system back in 2011, and we decided to continue with it.”

Featuring workshops for students’ time and stress management, Healy said, “The main focus of the day is to empower students with knowledge about the benefits of completing a two-year degree and to help them see the resources available here on campus to support them during their time here as a student.”

Hudson Valley’s retention efforts seem to be paying off. Hudson Valley is ranked 44 among the nation’s two-year schools in the number of associate degrees awarded.

Additionally, the college is within national community colleges’ top five percent for graduation rates and top ten percent for student success, which takes into account the 96 percent of Hudson Valley students who either transfer to another college or are hired for jobs after graduating from Hudson Valley.

Charles Porteus is currently working on his two-year certificate in construction, one of the many certificate programs that Hudson Valley offers for students who wish to join the workforce directly after graduating. Following the completion of his program in May, he said, “I’m looking at maybe joining a labor union or a nonunion company. I am still thinking about whether I want to jump into commercial or residential construction.”

“It’s more financially affordable and it’s a really good college for the price you pay,” said Marisa Bradley, liberal arts major, who plans on graduating in spring 2015 and transferring to another college to complete her degree in psychology.

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