MCCC earns national Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction award

By Diane VanDyke
Montgomery County Community College earns national recognition for its work in achieving higher student outcomes and narrowing equity gaps.

Montgomery County Community College earns national recognition for its work in achieving higher student outcomes and narrowing equity gaps.

Achieving the Dream (ATD) has named Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) as a 2019 Leader College of Distinction for its work in achieving new, higher student outcomes and narrowing equity gaps. MCCC is one of only 11 community colleges in the country to receive this prominent designation.

“This award recognizes that Montgomery County Community College is a leader in its work to champion success for all students through the intentional design of the college ATD LCDexperience,” said Dr. Victoria Bastecki-Perez, MCCC Interim President and Provost. “I’m proud of the dedication of our faculty, administrators and staff who diligently work to develop innovative solutions to help all students achieve their academic and career goals.”

MCCC was named an ATD Leader College in 2011, and the Leader College designation was reaffirmed in 2017.  In 2014, MCCC received ATD’s prestigious Leah Meyer Austin Award for building whole-college solutions and equity resulting in notable increases in student success.

ATD, a national, nonprofit leader in championing evidence-based institutional improvement, created the Leader College of Distinction award in 2018 to recognize colleges that continue striving to meet challenging student success goals. Leader Colleges of Distinction show improvement in at least three areas of student outcomes and show they have reduced performance disparities among students of different genders, races/ethnicities or socioeconomic statuses.

“Accelerating improvement in student success outcomes is difficult work and requires a sustained commitment from the entire college community. Small but national recognitions like this one are important for affirming and applauding the often unsung and behind the scenes work of these institutions,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream.

Specifically, ATD recognizes MCCC for its innovative work to improve student success outcomes. Three interventions – 24/7 online tutoring, a new student onboarding process and a new course withdrawal process – have produced significant results, helping students reach greater success.

MCCC launched a free 24/7 online tutoring pilot in the fall of 2017 to provide additive academic support for students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. Approximately 81% of MCCC’s students work while taking classes, and about 70% of students attend college part-time. With their busy schedules, many students need tutoring services beyond the hours provided by on-campus tutoring. MCCC’s online tutoring pilot produced positive results and feedback from students. As a result, MCCC now offers both 24/7 online and on-campus tutoring to all students.

In addition to online tutoring, MCCC adjusted its new student onboarding process. Recognizing that new students needed extra support when starting college, MCCC created Ready, Set, MontGO! – an onboarding program that highlights key information new students should know as they navigate college. Additionally, the onboarding process now includes a registration checkout to ensure students have the classes and optimal schedules to meet their needs.

With course withdrawal requests, MCCC enacted a series of changes so that such requests would prompt a conversation with an advisor and trigger a notification to the faculty. Working with the students, MCCC’s advisors and faculty members can prevent students from dropping courses and help them stay on track to accomplish their goals.

With these interventions and others, two specific groups of students – student-veterans and students receiving Pell grants – are completing gateway courses more successfully and have improved retention and transfer and degree attainment rates.

MCCC continually strives to improve equity on its campuses through using data, technology, engagement and communication. Because of the significance of this work, MCCC has formed an Equity Committee to guide the college’s work. The 2019-2020 year’s theme is “year of belonging,” focusing on fostering a welcoming, friendly learning environment for all students.