The Community College of Allegheny County is trying to get more of its students to finish with a degree or certificate.
CCAC participated in the Pennsylvania Community College Completion Challenge last week, which concludes with an open house at all eight locations from 2 to 7 p.m. Monday.
Currently, only 12 percent of students attending CCAC receive their degree, certificate or diploma in three years, according to CCAC spokeswoman Margaret Anderson.
Joy LeViere, adviser for CCAC Allegheny’s Phi Theta Kappa, a national community college honors society, said everyone at the school is in on the effort to encourage students to commit to getting their degree, regardless of how long it takes the student.
“We don’t exactly put a time limit on completion,” LeViere said. “We like to encourage students, most of all, to be successful. If that means that they need to take their time and be a part-time student, then that’s OK.”
Honors society students at Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges have executed 84 events across 23 campuses, including pledge-signing days, raffles, games, tours of learning centers, transfer fairs and support workshops. LaViere said locally, administrators are focusing on specific areas of support, such as their Roadmap program.
“It shows students, visually, their pathway from a great start to a great finish here at CCAC,” she said. “So we’ve really wanted our events to be splashy and fun and really interactive with our students.”
Many students have hopes of obtaining a bachelor’s degree elsewhere, she said, but obtaining an associate degree first provides some level of job security that they might otherwise miss.
“You could move on and transfer, and then something could happen, and all you’re left with is a bunch of credits instead of having that associate’s degree that is really important for your success,” she said.
According to LaViere, students often do not know how close they really are to meeting the requirements of an associate degree.
“I think after a while, they don’t realize how many credits that they’ve accrued,” she said. “And it’s only until they think about, ‘You know what? I only need maybe two or three more credits and I’ll have an associate degree.’”
She said people with an associate degree earn, on average, $500,000 more over the course of a lifetime compared to someone with no college credential.