Dr. David Devier

The Rest of the Story

David H. Devier, President
Glen Oaks Community College

Recently, there was an excellent article in newspapers throughout the region discussing the graduation rates of community college students. The author, Hope O’Dell, outlined the factors impacting “graduation rates” at Michigan community colleges. While Glen Oaks was reported as having the second highest graduation rate among these institutions, the newest data shows an even better story.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data regarding graduation rates is due each year in early February. All institutions’ grad rates submitted in February will be made available to the public in early Fall 2022. When it is published, it will show GOCC’s official graduation rate as 40% based on full-time “First Time in Any College Student” (ftiacs) from 18/Fall. This is a 12% increase over the 17/Fall data (28%) that was reported in the news article. This may well lead one to ask what has happened to cause this increase from 17/Fall and even what caused the earlier data that reported GOCC as having one of the highest graduation rates. I will attempt to explain some of the reasons.

At 55% this semester, Glen Oaks has what is likely the largest proportion of dual-enrolled high school students in the Midwest. Over half of our enrollment consists of students who have not yet graduated from high school but are earning college credits that will go toward a technical skills certificate or associate’s degree. Studies have shown that students who begin post-secondary education with credits already under their belt have better outcomes; that is, they persist and graduate at higher rates. This is particularly true for students from historically underrepresented groups in higher education—those from rural areas, students of color, and those first in their families to attend college. In Michigan, approximately 23% of community college students graduate, as measured by the Department of Education. Of those who earned college credit at Glen Oaks prior to graduating from high school, 45% earned a certificate or degree.

All community colleges in Michigan are working hard to attract students and provide opportunities for those who wish to improve their lives through higher education. Like our sister institutions, Glen Oaks has updated our academic programs and services to better meet the needs of adult college students through programs like Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners, but what we do more uniquely is build collaborative relationships with area high schools to offer a wide variety of options to high school students. Our Early Middle College (EMC) program has grown by 330% in the last four years. Our career technical education programs provide opportunities for high school students to learn in-demand skills in medical assisting, agricultural equipment technology, machining/manufacturing, electrical work, and welding, just to name a few. Our traditional dual enrollment programs provide opportunities to earn credits for transfer to four-year institutions. In fact, over 87% of these students enroll in post-secondary education after completing their high school diploma at GOCC. Over the past ten years, these students have attended any one of over three hundred different institutions.

The college focuses on each student’s needs and goals, one-on-one. Our student services staff, our faculty, our administrators, and the Board of Trustees all place the students at the center of all we do. For over fifty years, GOCC has been changing lives and improving communities throughout the greater St. Joseph County region. I would suggest that every reader has been touched by the good work of the college through their lives directly or through their children, grandchildren, and beyond. Our outstanding graduation rates are a reflection of this good work, and we promise to continue to do everything possible to serve the needs of all who engage with us.