CGCC on track with state goals

February 11, 2012

Columbia Gorge Community College is a key player in regional educational opportunities for adults, high school graduates and anyone seeking education and training opportunities.

Joining with Gov. Kitzhaber's recent intense focus on reforming Oregon's education system, CGCC intends on advancing its role in that effort.

"At CGCC," noted Dr. Frank Toda, CGCC president, "we will continue to be a center of excellence for education because of our collaborative approaches, dedicated staff and support from our communities."

Continued CGCC success under the governor's vision for education will be achieved "through passion, planning, priorities, persistence, agility and a focus on our mission," Toda added.

Keeping that focus is a critical strategy in adapting CGCC to the state's planned streamlining and coordination across education providers statewide.

The 2011 Oregon Legislature has passed elevated expectations for Oregon's education system, perhaps best summed-up by the short motto "40/40/ 20."

Translated, that means, by 2025, the state plans to achieve among residents aged 25-64 some serious educational leaps. The target numbers are: 40 percent attaining bachelor's degrees, 40 percent attaining associate degrees or certificates and the remaining 20 percent completing high school diplomas.

The 40/40/20 goal is leading significant changes within all levels of K-12 and post-secondary institutions statewide and CGCC has already begun implementing many of the targeted changes required to achieve this exceptional vision.

According to "Oregon Learns," a report delivered Dec. 15 to the Oregon Legislature by the Oregon Education Investment Board, "producing outcome-based education leading to college and career-readiness" is the top priority for Oregon.

Toda sees the value in this focus.

"It is no accident that our forefathers invested very heavily in educational systems," he said. "They knew that education is the 'knowledge-fuel' that powers economic growth and prosperity. In this regard, you will find the college involved in almost every level of business and government."

According to Dr. Susan Wolff, chief academic officer at CGCC, "We are already in the rigorous process of obtaining independent accreditation for CGCC by meeting the standards of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

"As the college implements its own processes and procedures, its staff has engaged in national research and best practices initiatives," she said. "These models are already informing the way we work as an organization and they align very closely with the 40/40/20 goals."

To achieve 40/40/20, schools at every level must work together to raise educational success and completion rates for teens and existing young adults.

Through partnerships with regional high schools and providing advisers to those schools, CGCC helps students make a smooth transition to college - a top priority of 40/40/20 - along with aiding returning adults who are seeking new skills, noted Wolff.

For incoming new high school graduates and adults with no prior college experience, preparatory coursework and learning to be successful as college students are important steppingstones to success.

According to Lori Ufford, CGCC's director of advising, some of the strategies now under way to increase advancement for all types of entering students include:

Expanding first-term student orientation and courses that focus on student success strategies.

Increasing dual-credit and early college coursework options in regional high schools. New programs at CGCC allow students to gain college credit while still enrolled in their home high school, thereby encouraging a "head-start" connection to college enrollment and understanding college requirements.

Offering developmental courses and programs for students who need additional skills in math, writing, reading, ESOL and study skills.

Increasing financial aid staff assistance to students to meet the 50 percent increase in applications. CGCC now awards its own financial aid.

Providing career advising and referral with support groups ensures that struggling students achieve greater success. CGCC now requires face-to-face meetings with college advisers and offers a free one-credit college study skills class for all students.

Providing one-stop enrollment services so students can access multiple college services at entry. Everything is also now available online.

According to Wolff, "Our staff is implementing national best practices in student retention and success, progression and completion, using national research and data to help us measure improvements."

CGCC is continuing other strategies which improve student success, including increasing ongoing advising, creating more flexible class offerings and more creative delivery of instruction and a continued focus on high-value, skill-based certificate programs in fields such as nursing and renewable energy technology.

The college is on track to complete its independent accreditation in August 2013 - an auspicious coalescence between the 40/40/20 target and an organization already geared up to reach its highest potential.

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