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ECTC urges retention, completion

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Program targets students who have finished 75 percent or more of requirements

By Kelly Cantrall

The local community college is taking part in a statewide effort to draw students who have left school back into the halls of Kentucky postsecondary institutions.

Elizabethtown Community and Technical College officials have started a program to assist former students in re-enrolling and finishing up a degree or diploma. The college started the program with a mini-grant of $5,000 it received from the Council on Postsecondary Education. The college matched the grant with its own money.

The council awarded nearly $50,000 in mini-grants to Kentucky colleges and universities to identify and assist students who have completed 75 percent or more of the requirements for a degree or diploma.

Melissa Bell, council director for student success, policy and initiatives, said many efforts to boost student retention, or keeping students enrolled in school, are focused on those in their first or second year. This program was a way to focus on a population of students who are farther along in their respective degree programs. Retention is a key issue for the council.

“Degree completion is very important to us,” Bell said.

Sue French, ECTC dean of instructional and professional development, said she was interested in the grant because of how it could affect the lives of qualifying students. A person with an associate’s degree can earn, on average, $7,000 more a year than someone with a high school diploma, French said. Post-secondary education is needed for the majority of jobs now, she said.

ECTC officials identified 740 students from the past three years who fit the criteria of the grant, she said. They mailed information to these students and followed up with phone calls.

French said many of those who received a call expressed interest in returning to ECTC and were happy to hear from someone at the college.

ECTC officials hosted a meeting Nov. 15 to allow the former students an opportunity to re-enroll and meet with an adviser and financial aid staff.

The meeting led to the college re-enrolling 26 students, but French said she expects the number to continue to grow.

“It has just generated all kinds of interest,” she said.

Many of the students contacted discussed starting back in the fall, so French and others will follow up with them in the spring or summer.

French said many former students need some encouragement to consider going back to school. She was pleased the program has begun to impact residents because “that credential opens all kinds of career options for them.”

The work of the colleges helps the institutions and the Council on Postsecondary Education to meet its degree completion goals, but there are more beneficiaries of the programs.

“Ultimately, it helps the individual students,” Bell said.

People interested in more information on the program can call ECTC Admissions at (270) 706-8801.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.