Savoring The Sweet Taste of Success: Part III
(The Myth-Buster Report)
Story by Michael Lavender
The 2009 Critical Success Factors Report published by the NC Community College System Office has a new nickname locally: The Myth-Buster Report.
Community College officials in Raleigh publish the annual report as a performance appraisal of sorts for the 58 community colleges in the state. It measures how well each school performs in relation to a specified standard in eight different areas that have been deemed necessary or critical for student success.
The report has McDowell Technical Community College trustees and administrators beaming with pride. McDowell Tech is one of only 11 colleges to have been named an “Exceptional Performance Institution,” a designation given only to the most high-performing community colleges in the state.
To be named an “Exceptional Performance Institution,” colleges had to meet or exceed standards in all eight areas and students transferring to four-year institutions had to perform at or above the level of students who were “native” to the university—those who started at the college as freshman.
Among other things, that is one reason folks at MTCC are referring to the document as “The Myth-Buster Report.” For years, there has been a myth, or assumption, that students who enroll in four-year universities or colleges were receiving a better education than their counterparts who first attended a community college.
As it has in the past, this report dispels that myth. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the students who transfer to four-year colleges and universities after attending one or two years at a community college In North Carolina performed at or above the level of students who had gone directly to those colleges as freshman. The “Myth-Buster Report” uses grade point averages to assess performance.
For those students who complete a full associate degree, a two-year program, at a community college, the numbers are even more impressive: ninety-one percent (91%) perform at or above the students who enrolled at the four-year institution as freshman.
The more exciting news, however, is that McDowell Tech students performed even better than the state averages for all community college students. Ninety-one percent (91%) of MTCC students who transferred to a four-year college or university after only one year at McDowell Tech performed at or above the students who were native to the university. For those who completed two-year programs, one hundred percent (100%) performed at or above their counterparts who started their academic careers at four-year colleges. When state officials combined the two scores, ninety-five percent (95%) of those who spent one or two years at MTCC had GPA’s higher than students native to the four-year colleges.
Armed with those statistics, Dr. Bryan Wilson, President of McDowell Tech, has been effuse with praise for the work his faculty and staff are doing. “When our transfer students are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with students who went directly to four-year colleges and doing just as well as those students—or better, I have every reason in the world to be proud of the work our folks are doing. But when those students also outperform students from other community colleges, I am doubly proud.”
Even more impressive, says Wilson, is the fact that McDowell Tech is the only small community college (with less than 1500 FTE) to have been designated an “Exceptional Performance Institution” this year. Statistics tend to favor larger schools, he says. “One or two low-performing students can prevent a small school from meeting a certain standard, but that same one or two at a large school wouldn’t make a blip in their stats.”
“When you look at the 2009 Critical Success Factors Report and what it says about our educational quality, and when you see recent graduates like Stephanie Rockett – who is working on a doctorate in Analytical Chemistry at Wake Forest University—performing as well as they do, there’s no way you can continue to believe the old myth that four-year institutions are necessarily superior to community colleges, particularly McDowell Tech,” said Wilson.