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Texarkana College and Odessa College Win Leah Meyer Austin Award - February 20, 2018

Silver Spring, MD (February 15, 2018) – Odessa College and Texarkana College received the 2018 Leah Meyer Austin Award today, the highest honor awarded by community college reform leader Achieving the Dream (ATD). The award recognizes institutions that have demonstrated outstanding progress in designing a student-focused culture and aligning institutional strategies to promote student success. This year’s award, sponsored by The Kresge Foundation, is accompanied by a $25,000 prize for each college.

“Winning the Leah Meyer Austin Award means a college has made sweeping changes in culture, policies, and practices that improve their students’ experiences and lead to measurably better outcomes,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, ATD’s president and CEO. “Odessa and Texarkana College have seen dramatic increases in student success because they took a holistic approach to reform and carefully tracked the impact of the new approach.”

As a result of its efforts to increase student success, Texarkana College tripled its 3-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students by 23 percentage points from 10% to 33% for the 2008 and 2014 cohorts, respectively. The college’s equity gaps are narrowing, too. For example, the 3-year graduation rates among Black students increased by 23 percentage points from 4% to 27% for the 2008 and 2014 cohorts, respectively.

Texarkana College made a commitment to evidence-based decision-making, which led to improved faculty professional development, redesigned curriculum, re-engineered enrollment and student services, and a new enterprise resource planning system.

“Texarkana College has shown exemplary skill and commitment in aligning and advancing so much change,” said Dr. Stout.

Dr. Donna McDaniel, TC’s vice president of instruction, said Texarkana College focuses everything they do around one central goal, which is student success that leads to persistence and completion.

“Why do we believe those efforts are important? It's the heart of our institution,” said McDaniel. “Students are what we do. If they're not successful, we're not needed.”

At Odessa, the college nearly doubled its three-year graduation rate by 11 percentage points from 12% and 23% for the 2009 cohort and the 2014 cohort, respectively. The college also increased graduation rates for Hispanic students by 15 percentage points from 10% for the 2009 cohort to 25% for the 2014 cohort.  Now, with Hispanic students graduating in higher numbers than white students, the college has closed its equity gap.

Odessa College began a program called the Drop Rate Improvement Program to strengthen the connection between each course instructor and student. The college also reduced the length of each semester from sixteen to eight weeks to accommodate students’ schedules and create and sustain momentum toward completion.
President Gregory D. Williams said, “We credit Achieving the Dream not only for helping us to become more data informed, but for making us so uncomfortable with what we had been doing that we had to change.”

“Odessa College’s leadership launched big, bold changes that made it much easier for students to choose to stay in college and earn a credential,” said Dr. Stout. “The college has truly built a student-focused culture which has led to tremendous impact for students.”

Read more here about Texarkana College's work.

Read more here about Odessa College's work.