ECC launches ‘20-in-1’ initiative to help students finish their degree
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org August 28, 2013 4:46PM
Elgin, 8/27/13--Second semester business student Jacqueline Gonzalez, Elgin, takes some information from Melliza Malabanon, nursing student from Carpentersville. Elgin Community College sponsored an Information Fair Tuesday about their 20-in-1 initiative to encourage students. | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media
Tips for student success
Here are 20 tips Elgin Community College has compiled to help students complete 20 credit hours during their first academic year:
Set your long-term and short-term goals.
Declare a program of study.
Embrace your College 101 experience.
Find the money.
Go where the experts are.
Form a study group.
Engage in campus life.
Ask for help.
Use the Student Handbook and Academic Planner.
Show up and do the work.
Participate actively in class.
Enroll in Learning Community courses.
Master the library.
Develop a support network of friends who share similar goals.
Find a mentor or role model.
Become proficient in Desire 2 Learn and the Student Portal.
Protect your time to achieve your goals.
Believe in yourself.
Make meaningful choices.
To learn more about putting these tips in action, visit the Student Portal at elgin.edu/accessecc or pick up a “Road to a Sweeter Life” from Phi Theta Kappa in the Student Life office at Elgin Community College.
Updated: September 30, 2013 7:38AM
ELGIN — Erin Kohlhoff is in her third year at Elgin Community College, studying early education. She hopes to become a special education teacher, she said, inspired by her 5-year-old son.
As a single mom, Kohlhoff, 25, knows the barriers to completing her degree, and she will take 18 credit hours this year, she said. Twenty-four is considered full-time.
But she also knows the resources available at the community college. She’s gotten financial aid, she’s gotten help watching her son from her parents, and she’s been able to work her class schedule around the days her parents are available, she said.
And, she said, “It’s important to be on campus. The more involvement, the more fun school seems to be.”
Kohlhoff was one of several students in Phi Theta Kappa at Elgin Community College who kicked off the community college’s “20-in-1” initiative this week with a lot of fun — an informational booth; free popcorn, Post-Its and highlighters; and a chance to win a laptop or tablet — in the Jobe Lounge on campus .
That initiative pushes the goal for students to complete 20 credits in their first academic year at the community college.
It’s based on a study the college coordinated last year that shows students who successfully complete 20 credit hours during their first year are five times more likely to complete a degree or certificate, according to Amybeth Maurer, director of first-year programs and student life.
“We have to be proactive about getting the word out to students,” Maurer said. “You’re going to see it a lot. Slowly but surely, I think, by next semester if students don’t know what 20-in-1 is, they’ve been living under a rock.”
Successful completion means a student finishes a course with at least a C, according to Mary Perkins, director of student and academic effectiveness.
The college usually has an incoming class of about 2,000 students, Perkins said. Of those, half finish 20 hours in their first year; 30 percent successfully, she said.
About 20 percent of students earn a certificate or degree within three years, Perkins said.
“It’s been that way for a number of years,” she said. “It’s pretty typical of community colleges since we have so many students coming to us for different reasons. Of course, we look at it and think we could do better.”
But that completion really is a “kind of faraway goal,” Perkins said.
That’s why the community college decided to look at its data, searching for indicators of student success that “find smaller milestones or steps along the way.”
Steps to success
Elgin Community College has partnered with Phi Theta Kappa, its “cream of the crop,” to promote the initiative, Maurer said.
It has organized a “Success Week” in November and a number or workshops to introduce students to the resources available to them at school, from financial aid to seminars about choosing a career and “How to Utilize your Instructor.”
And Kohlhoff, vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, designed a Candy Land-themed booklet, “The Road to a Sweeter Life.”
It lays out 20 tips for students like a colorful game board students can check off along their way to completing a degree or certificate, like picking a major, participating in class and mastering the library.
One tip that’s been useful to second-year student Libby Harvey of St. Charles is finding the money. Harvey has gotten scholarships to pursue a degree in elementary education at the community college, she said. She’ll take 16 credits this year and hopes to graduate in the spring.
She talked up the free popcorn Tuesday at the information booth because, she said, “People just want the free stuff.” But she wants new students to be successful, she said.
“That’s why we join Phi Theta Kappa,” Harvey said.
Lots of resources
Phi Theta Kappa president Justin Kelly of South Elgin also encouraged students to make friends on campus.
“It will motivate and encourage you. Your friends don’t want to see you fail,” he said.
He is a veteran in his third year at the school, where he recently was accepted into its physical therapy assistant program, the result of career counseling on campus. He’ll take 12.5 credit hours this year, he said.
Like Kelly, Kohlhoff and Harvey, Perkins said, “We’re very aware that for some students, 20 credit hours in one year is more than their lives can handle.”
“I think we need to be careful with the message we’re sending, that it’s not failure if you don’t get there, but research shows it’s more difficult for students. The workshops we’re doing are intended to show students there are a whole lot of resources available to you.”