College starts council to recruit, retain students


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Students are dropping out of AACC and other community colleges at a higher rate since the pandemic began. AACC has started a faculty/administration council to address the losses.

Dan Elson, Reporter

Two AACC vice presidents are forming a council to explore ways the college can help students stay in school.

AACC President Dawn Lindsay in October appointed Dr. Tanya Millner, vice president for learning and the college’s provost, and Dr. Felicia Patterson, vice president for learner support services, to run the new Enrollment, Retention and Completion Council.

“There’s been a decline in retention,” Millner said. “We’re trying to find ways to meet students where they are and get them back to campus.”

Millner said retention has been a problem for both in-person and face-to-face classes.

Patterson said some students are dropping classes or even out of school because of the challenges they face during the pandemic. Retention has become a problem at community colleges across the country, she said.

“It’s something the community colleges have been facing during this pandemic,” Patterson said. “There are a lot of different things that are happening with students. As the environment has gotten more complex, student challenges have been more complex.”

Retention at AACC has been decreasing since the pandemic began, the vice presidents said. Fall retention from 2018 to 2019 was at 62%. In fall 2019 to 2020, it dropped to 57%. And for 2020 to 2021, retention fell to 55%, according to the Office of Strategic Communications.

Council members will ask students how the college could make the classroom experience better, the vice presidents said. They will also identify which courses have the most problems with retention. They will look into how to increase retention among black male students. Plus ,the council will look into increasing the number of students receiving financial aid.

The council, which will also deal with recruitment of AACC students, eventually will make recommendations to the college for changing policies.

“We [will] all come together and collaborate, to work through anything that we’re seeing with students,” Patterson said. “That might be a barrier to enrollment, [or] something we need to consider, something we need to do different, [and] how we can effectively address our students coming into the college and staying at the college.”

Although the council’s 13 to 15 members will be faculty and staff, students will be able to offer input as well, Patterson said.

“It’s really important that we have student voices included in this conversation,” Patterson said. “And so there will be [an] opportunity for students to give feedback because obviously, our students are the ones who know what they need most and we want to hear and listen and make adjustments accordingly.”