Leah Meyer Austin Award

Leah Meyer Austin Award

Community College Reform Leader Achieving the Dream Recognizes Two Colleges for Dramatic Improvements in Student Success

Texarkana College and Odessa College Win Leah Meyer Austin Award

Odessa College and Texarkana College received the 2018 Leah Meyer Austin Award today, the highest honor awarded by community college reform leader Achieving the Dream (ATD). The award recognizes institutions that have demonstrated outstanding progress in designing a student-focused culture and aligning institutional strategies to promote student success. This year’s award, sponsored by The Kresge Foundation, is accompanied by a $25,000 prize for each college.

“Winning the Leah Meyer Austin Award means a college has made sweeping changes in culture, policies, and practices that improve their students’ experiences and lead to measurably better outcomes,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, ATD’s president and CEO. “Odessa and Texarkana College have seen dramatic increases in student success because they took a holistic approach to reform and carefully tracked the impact of the new approach.”

As a result of its efforts to increase student success, Texarkana College tripled its 3-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students by 25 percentage points from 8% to 33% for the 2008 and 2014 cohorts, respectively. The college’s equity gaps are narrowing, too. For example, the 3-year graduation rates among Black students increased by 23 percentage points from 4% to 27% for the 2008 and 2014 cohorts, respectively.

Texarkana College made a commitment to evidence-based decision-making, which led to improved faculty professional development, redesigned curriculum, re-engineered enrollment and student services, and a new enterprise resource planning system.

“Texarkana College has shown exemplary skill and commitment in aligning and advancing so much change,” said Dr. Stout.

Dr. Donna McDaniel, TC’s vice president of instruction, said Texarkana College focuses everything they do around one central goal, which is student success that leads to persistence and completion.

“Why do we believe those efforts are important? It's the heart of our institution,” said McDaniel. “Students are what we do. If they're not successful, we're not needed.”

At Odessa, the college nearly doubled its three-year graduation rate by 11 percentage points from 12% and 23% for the 2009 cohort and the 2014 cohort, respectively. The college also increased graduation rates for Hispanic students by 15 percentage points from 10% for the 2009 cohort to 25% for the 2014 cohort. Now, with Hispanic students graduating in higher numbers than white students, the college has closed its equity gap. 

Odessa College began a program called the Drop Rate Improvement Program to strengthen the connection between each course instructor and student. The college also reduced the length of each semester from sixteen to eight weeks to accommodate students’ schedules and create and sustain momentum toward completion.

President Gregory D. Williams said, “We credit Achieving the Dream not only for helping us to become more data informed, but for making us so uncomfortable with what we had been doing that we had to change.”

“Odessa College’s leadership launched big, bold changes that made it much easier for students to choose to stay in college and earn a credential,” said Dr. Stout. “The college has truly built a student-focused culture which has led to tremendous impact for students.”

About Achieving the Dream

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 220 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing academic achievement gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with more than 100 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 40 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students.

About Texarkana College

Texarkana College serves more than 10,000 students annually through academic, workforce, and community & business education courses. Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the college is also designated as a Leader College in the national Achieving the Dream Network. Texarkana College has proudly served northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas since 1927. For more information, visit texarkanacollege.edu.

About Odessa College

Founded in 1946, Odessa College offers 110 degrees and certificates in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math; public and consumer service; health science; business and industry; and the arts and humanities. The college’s main campus is located in Odessa, Texas, and OC has extension centers in Andrews, Monahans, and Pecos, Texas. Odessa College enrolls over 8,200 students in lifelong learning and enrichment annually.

Odessa College provides innovative, industry-aligned and inter-disciplinary experiences for all students throughout their academic and professional training. The college’s strategic goal of doing more to help more students aligns with state and national efforts to improve community college student success.

In five years, OC quadrupled the percentage of first-time, full-time students who graduate or transfer in three years: 9% in 2010 to 40% in 2013; and, five years after graduating, OC’s 2010 graduates earned more than double the wages of all other workers in the region: $110,248 vs $54,850.

A finalist for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, OC was recognized with a Rising Star Award for Rapid Student Improvement. The Aspen Prize recognizes institutions for their outstanding outcomes in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students. The Aspen Prize is the nation’s preeminent recognition for achievement and improvement in community colleges.