Initiative helps keep students in college

Student success rates in community colleges are low, and OCCC is no exception.

The college wants to change that, said Stu Harvey, director of planning and research.

Harvey spoke with a group of journalism students about Achieving the Dream, a national initiative to keep students in college until they graduate.

Community colleges have made a five-year commitment to improve student success rates.

Schools designate certain groups of students they track to see if the students remain in school, graduate, drop out, or transfer.

Harvey said OCCC focused on five key areas that research data has indicated are related to student success.

These focal points resulted in redesigning the developmental math courses, increasing the amount of financial aid awarded, making gateway courses more engaging, creating a new academic advisement system, and creating an online orientation course for online students.

Since Achieving the Dream was adopted, more students have succeeded in developmental and gateway courses, applied for financial aid, and visited their advisers, Harvey said.

According to the September 2011 data on the Achieving the Dream website, 63 percent of students applied for financial aid, up from 59 percent last year.

Harvey said research shows that students who receive financial aid are more likely to stay in college than those who did not.

The data also shows that students enrolled in the Success in College and Life course had a 65.5 percent retention rate, as opposed to 36.8 percent for students who were not enrolled in the course.

Although started before OCCC adopted Achieving the Dream, the Success in College and Life courses have also shown a positive trend in retention rates.

“Students tell me ‘I hate it, but it helped me,’” Harvey said.

Harvey started working at OCCC seven years ago, and said working with OCCC and Achieving the Dream has opened his eyes to the value of community college.

“I would say I had been an educational snob,” Harvey said about his view on education before working for the college. Harvey is a graduate of the University of Tulsa.

At the end of the speech, students asked questions and weighed in on some of the changes OCCC has made since the Achieving the Dream initiative began.

Harvey said OCCC will continue working on these goals, even after the grant funding ends.

For more information on Achieving the Dream visit

To contact Mary McAtee, email


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