Posted February 7, 2023
National network of 10 exceptional community colleges commits to ensuring that every student can earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential
The Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Community College Research Center at Teacher College, Columbia University today named Lorain County Community College as one of 10 community colleges selected for Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network. Announced last fall, this network will be comprised of 10 community colleges committed to improving students’ post-completion outcomes and proving that — by focusing on delivering credentials of value — colleges can strengthen the programs they offer and advising they provide. LCCC is one of two community colleges in Ohio selected for the network.
“Our community turns to Lorain County Community College to prepare for in-demand careers. By working with the Unlocking Opportunity network, LCCC will continue to enhance students’ career outcomes that provide family sustaining wages,” said LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D.
This national network will lead the field in shifting from the important but incomplete goal of graduating students with any credential to advancing access and completion with the end in mind: credentials of value. That means making sure that every student is set up to earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential — including students of color and low-income students who are least likely to enroll in and complete the programs that most often result in strong outcomes.
The focus of Unlocking Opportunity directly aligns with LCCC’s strategic plan, Vision 2025. The plan includes 10,000 Degrees of Impact – an initiative that aims for 10,000 individuals to earn credentials from LCCC between the years 2019 and 2025. To date, progress on the 10,000 Degrees of Impact is more than 70% complete, resulting in a positive impact for graduates and their families through the opportunity of good paying careers, while supplying local employers with a talent pipeline for the future.
“More than 90% of LCCC graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio. By working with local employers and creating value-added programs, such as our earn and learn programs and holistic support services, LCCC is helping advance the economic mobility of our students and our community. By joining the Unlocking Opportunity network, our impact in these areas will continue to expand,” Ballinger said.
LCCC delivers associate degrees, applied bachelor’s degrees and certificates. Through LCCC’s University Partnership, students can continue their education with more than 100 bachelor’s and master’s degrees from 15 Ohio colleges – all on the LCCC campus and at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, LCCC partners with more than 700 employers to ensure education in the classroom aligns with workforce needs.
“For many years, community colleges have been focused on improving graduation rates—and progress has been steady and impressive,” said Josh Wyner, founder and executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program.
It is time now to also focus on increasing the value of the credentials they deliver, “especially for the large numbers of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students who rely so heavily on community colleges to provide a path to a better life. The colleges selected for this network have shown that they can make scaled and systemic change, and are ready to work together on this critical goal,” Wyner said.
The network will run from 2023 through 2028. During the first three years, colleges will set concrete goals, plan reform strategies, and implement changes with the support of coaches and learning sessions. The final three years will include continued monitoring and research by CCRC and Aspen alongside the continuing release of publicly-accessible tools, case studies, and reports to share the lessons with the field. Throughout the process, colleges will focus on strengthening and rethinking existing programs and developing new program models that expand career and educational opportunity for all students.
“We’re excited to work with these colleges to help them evaluate and strengthen their programs and see which lead to great outcomes: either good jobs right away or via completion of a bachelor’s degree,” said Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center. “This requires intensive work, and I cannot imagine a better group of institutions from which we can learn and share lessons with the field on how to deliver excellent and equitable programs.”
The colleges in the network are:
- Alamo Colleges District: San Antonio College, TX
- Laramie County Community College, WY
- Lorain County Community College, OH
- Monroe Community College, NY
- Odessa College, TX
- Sinclair College, OH
- Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, WI
- St. Petersburg College, FL
- Tulsa Community College, OK
- Valencia College, FL
San Jacinto College in Texas will also participate, as a resource college for the network. This project is made possible by Arnold Ventures, Ascendium, ECMC Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.
About Lorain County Community College
Established in 1963, Lorain County Community College is the first community college in Ohio with a permanent campus. For six decades, LCCC has served the diverse needs of the greater Lorain County region by providing affordable access to higher education and now serves approximately 13,000 students each year in certificate, associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.
Since 1963, one in four Lorain County residents have taken classes at LCCC and more than 43,000 have earned a degree. LCCC was recently ranked in the top 10% of most affordable colleges in the nation and more than 90% of LCCC graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio. Forty-five percent of Lorain County’s high school graduates earn college credits through LCCC’s high school dual enrollment programs. LCCC also partners with more than 700 employers and offers 170 industry-recognized credentials to better prepare the workforce of the future.
LCCC is a dynamic, student-centered college intentionally designed to support individuals with balancing multiple roles on their path to college completion. Eighty-five percent of LCCC students work while attending college, with the majority working at least half-time. The average age of LCCC’s students is 24, and many bring life experiences that include caring for dependents, serving in the military, or completing some prior college. Over 80% of LCCC students receive financial assistance through grants and scholarships, and LCCC has been nationally recognized for holistic, fully integrated services and commitment to student success.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program supports colleges and universities in their quest to achieve a higher standard of excellence, delivering credentials that unlock life-changing careers and strengthen our economy, society, and democracy. We know it takes visionary college leaders to achieve this higher standard and we make it our mission to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and research-backed tools to inspire change, shift practice, and advance the capacity of colleges to deliver excellent and equitable student outcomes. For more information, visit the website.
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. Learn more at aspeninstitute.org.
The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University studies community colleges because they provide critical access to postsecondary education and are uniquely positioned to promote equity and social mobility in the United States. Our mission is to conduct research that helps these institutions strengthen opportunities and improve outcomes for their students, particularly those from underserved populations. Learn more at ccrc.tc.columbia.edu.