The Crisis of Completion

For the last 10 years, Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) has worked with partners all across the state and across a myriad of sectors to promote equity through college access. In pursuit of 60% of Michiganders achieving a postsecondary credential by 2030, MCAN has tirelessly advanced the work of college access. This has included training school counselors, supporting Local College Access Networks and Promise Zones, as well as operating the award-winning AdviseMI AmeriCorps program, which places near-peer advisers in high schools to help students as they make the transition from high school to postsecondary education.

MCAN knows that just getting students TO college does not result in a college degree or certificate. For low-income students, students of color, and first-generation college-going students, in particular, successfully completing college is by no way guaranteed after enrolling. According to Michigan's Center for Educational Performance and Information, only 36.5% of students entering community college complete their education within three years.  

Breaking down these completion rates by student ethnicity, we see stark disparities among groups, while all are underperforming:

  •  Black or African American - 21.6%
  •  American Indian or Alaskan Native - 24.8%
  •  Hispanic/Latino - 28%
  •  Caucasian - 40.7%
  •  Hawaiian or Pacific Islander - 41.3%
  •  Asian - 43.5%

Community college completion has many forms: earning a certificate, earning an associate degree, and/or successfully transferring to a four-year institution to earn a degree. Even with this broad definition, the majority of students who enter community college in Michigan do not complete. Barriers that impede students’ ability to translate college access into college success include but are not limited to: college costs, lack of college navigation and knowledge, and lack of social capital. These low rates across the board and the lack of equity in college completion must be addressed, and students must be provided support to help overcome these barriers. MCAN is now launching a new program to more intentionally focus on college persistence and completion. 

 Accessing college is not enough. We need to help ensure that students actually earn that postsecondary credential that opens up a world of future possibilities for them and provides them with economic independence.

Introducing MCAN’s College Completion Corps

MCAN’s new College Completion Corps will place 20 AmeriCorps members on community college campuses across Michigan. As a Completion Coach, each full-time member will serve a campus-defined cohort of 100-150 students who are first-generation, low-income, and/or students of color, with a focus on college persistence and completion.

Together, coaches and students will:

  • create a completion plan that will outline a strategy for FAFSA completion
  •  identify a student's support team
  •  structure a schedule for class attendance and coursework submission, and
  •  define a plan for course selection and registration for the next semesters.

Completion Coaches will engage with their student cohort over the course of the academic year. These interactions will include 1:1 meetings to advance on benchmarks and address challenges that arise, group activities and meetings to boost a sense of belonging and self-efficacy, and technology-based interaction (text, email and phone) to build focus on dates and deadlines. AmeriCorps members will serve in partnership with campus professionals to amplify the college's work but will not supplant existing staff or resources.

The College Completion Corps is an important expansion for MCAN, and one that we’re proud to take in partnership with community college campuses, LCANs, Promise Zones, nonprofit partners, and others. For our network across the state, who are all committed to student success, we hope that you will be part of this new initiative with us, where we go beyond accessing higher education opportunities and work to ensure postsecondary completion.

The Urgency of the Moment

Now, in the COVID-19 world, we need students with degrees more than ever. Pre-COVID-19, 70% of Michigan jobs required a postsecondary education, and those jobs that will be created as we emerge from this pandemic and economic shutdown are likely to require degrees as well. We understand the significant barriers that will have to be overcome for students to get to campus in the first place, especially low-income students, first-generation college-going students and students of color.

Students may encounter many challenges in the process of completing college, but having a Completion Coach in their corner is one strategy to overcome those challenges. At MCAN, we’re honored to be on that journey alongside students, supporting them through high school completion, college access, and now college success.

Are you a Michigan community college looking to host an MCAN College Completion Coach on your campus? 

Find out more and apply here