Friday, December 19, 2014

INBODY: Best in state, fifth in nation

By BRIAN INBODY, Neosho County Community College | 1/20/2014

The first weeks of January traditionally are a quiet time for Neosho County Community Collge. Although we have a few interterm classes going on, the campus is fairly empty. We typically spend the time preparing for the coming spring semester. There usually just isn’t much in the way of news — but that isn’t the case this year.

First, Neosho has been named the fifth-fastest growing community college in the country for our sized institution by Community College Week magazine. We were ranked 14th last year, and this year fifth! By the way, this also makes us the fastest-growing community college in Kansas again. To make its ranking, Community College Week used national data called IPEDS collected by the U.S. Department of Education on a yearly basis.

The first weeks of January traditionally are a quiet time for Neosho County Community Collge. Although we have a few interterm classes going on, the campus is fairly empty. We typically spend the time preparing for the coming spring semester. There usually just isn’t much in the way of news — but that isn’t the case this year.

First, Neosho has been named the fifth-fastest growing community college in the country for our sized institution by Community College Week magazine. We were ranked 14th last year, and this year fifth! By the way, this also makes us the fastest-growing community college in Kansas again. To make its ranking, Community College Week used national data called IPEDS collected by the U.S. Department of Education on a yearly basis.

I am very proud of what we have done as a college to open our doors to more and more students. Through our offerings at Chanute, Ottawa, online and our many sites at high schools, hospitals, as well as our new Eastern Kansas Rural Technology Center in Garnett, we keep expanding, reaching more and more students in the area.

But what does it matter to reach all of these students if the students are not successful? That’s my second piece of news.

The Kansas Board of Regents recently developed a new and, in my opinion, more accurate measuring stick to examine colleges and universities to see if students’ educational needs are being met. The feds previously just looked at graduation rates to see if Neosho was doing a good job. That sounds OK, but if you look closer, you will see that many students do not come to a community college to get an associate’s degree.

For instance, if a student came to the Ottawa campus, took classes for a year to “get the basics out of the way,” then transferred to the University of Kansas, and was successful there, that sounds great, doesn’t it? The student got his or her bachelor’s degree and Neosho helped provide a low-cost robust start to that degree. But for Neosho, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s logic, that student is a failure. The student is a stop out and didn’t graduate. Forget that he or she never intended on graduating and still had his or her educational needs met; still, the fact that this student didn’t get a degree from Neosho goes down as a mark against us.

Even under this myopic government measurement of graduation rate, Neosho does very well. About 33 percent of our students graduate with a degree or certificate in three years, compared to the national average of 22 percent. But still 33-percent success looks like 67-percent failure, doesn’t it?

That’s why the Kansas Board of Regents created the Student Success Index that follows a student from their community college through university and gradation. If the student completed a degree anywhere or is still enrolled working on his or her certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree, that is a success.

I am very proud to report that, for the most up-to-date years studied, 2010-2013, Neosho has a 71.9-percent success rate. About 72 percent of our students still are working on their degrees or have graduated. That certainly is better than 33 percent.

How good is that statistic? It makes us No. 1 in Kansas among the 19 community colleges. Wow! I could not have been happier. My chest is quite puffed up right now. (That’s from pride, not from all of the holiday weight I gained this season. OK. Some of it is from pie.)

I hope you join me in being proud of your community college. First in Kansas in growth (fifth in the nation) and first in Kansas in student success. (It’s not all good though. We are last in something — and that’s percentage of state support from the state funding formula. We are the least state supported higher education institution in Kansas. But that is another, much less positive column for another month.)

It has been a busy few weeks here at the college as we begin 2014. The month’s events continue today with the start of the spring semester. And away we go!

Brian Inbody is Neosho County Community College president. Email him at binbody@neosho.edu

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