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L&C Blazing Trails in Student Retention and Completion

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Article by: Laura Inlow, L&C Media Services, linlow@lc.edu

GODFREY – Lewis and Clark Community College recently completed a big step in its continuing maximum accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) – and has come out the other end a leader among its peers in student retention and completion rates.

The college entered the HLC’s Persistence and Completion Academy in 2016 as part of the accreditation process, with a goal to complete a Quality Initiative, or improvement project, in retention and completion. 

Lewis and Clark would track students who utilized tutoring, advising and library services, see how that engagement correlated with grades and completion rates, and then use the data to connect at-risk students with services that have shown evidence of increasing student success.

“Lewis and Clark’s model is unique and very successful,” said Director of Institutional Research and Library Services Dennis Krieb, who coordinates the accreditation team’s efforts. “As a result, Lewis and Clark now exceeds many of its national peer institutions in retention and graduation rate measures according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data produced by the U.S. Department of Education.”

Lewis and Clark’s full-time student retention rate has outpaced the IPEDS peer group since 2011. As of 2018, L&C’s rate was 70 percent compared to 62 percent for the college’s peers.

Graduation rates have increased. L&C’s graduation rate at two years surpassed its peer group in 2016, and in 2018 was 25 percent compared to 19 percent. Its graduation rate at three and four years both surpassed the IPEDS group in 2015 – and in 2018 was 39 percent compared to 31 percent at three years, and 44 percent to 37 percent at four.

“Lewis and Clark’s ongoing work to focus on student success demonstrates our faculty and staff’s dedication to serving students and helping them be successful in their ongoing educational endeavors,” said Interim President Lori Artis. “The work of the faculty and staff who took part in this effort is to be commended, as it not only further illustrates our commitment to students, but it will also serve us well in our future accreditation pursuits. This successful initiative is another example of how Lewis and Clark works in creative ways to focus on how best to support our students.”

Accreditation allows Lewis and Clark to be able to offer college credits that are transferrable to other higher education institutions around the United States.

“Accreditation represents the most important endorsement that a higher education institution can achieve,” Krieb said. “It assures students that the education they are receiving has successfully met standards to ensure quality, and that the credits and degrees they have attained at Lewis and Clark will be recognized by employers, licensing boards, and other colleges and universities.” 

In 2018, the HLC suggested the college change its focus from retention to enrollment.

“Today, the Enrollment Task Force is carrying that work on,” Krieb said. “Enrollment has come front and center for the college.”

Lewis and Clark is taking a long-term, analytical approach to its enrollment strategy. An Enrollment Task Force, comprised of faculty, staff and administrators, has been established to identify enrollment initiatives ranging from marketing, course and program offerings, community outreach, and recruitment. The team is led by Assistant Interim President Brett Reinert.

“A key component of this strategy will be to continually leverage data to assess the impact of these initiatives,” Krieb said.

Krieb gave an update on the college’s continuing accreditation process during July’s Board of Trustees meeting, held virtually on Zoom, Tuesday, July 14.

Board Chair David Heyen applauded the accreditation team’s work.

“I want to congratulate Dennis on doing a good job leading this effort,” Heyen said. “Lewis and Clark has built a solid reputation on its retention and completion successes, and I look forward to seeing what the team can accomplish in terms of enrollment.”

The next step for continued accreditation, an ongoing process, is a comprehensive self-study, followed by a campus visit from HLC reviewers in 2022-2023.

For more information about Lewis and Clark Community College, visit www.lc.edu/discover.