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Colleges Win National Honors for Student Success

February 20, 2019

Amarillo College in Texas and Columbus State Community College in Ohio received the 2019 Leah Meyer Austin Award from Achieving the Dream during the organization's national conference on Tuesday.

The annual award, which is $25,000 for each institution, is given to colleges that show measurable improvement in student outcomes such as graduation rates. 

Amarillo College has had more students graduate since administrators decided to tackle student poverty. The college's three-year graduation rate increased from 13 percent to 22 percent within six years of the starting the initiative. Amarillo opened a counseling center, a legal aid clinic, a career and employment center, a childcare center, and an Advocacy and Resource Center, which connects students to emergency aid and social services that help them meet their basic needs.

Columbus State used a variety of different interventions designed to help students with enrollment, registration, orientation, curriculum and advising. The college also created a Student Central office to provide financial aid and other enrollment services to help low-income students and those from foster care systems.

The biggest gains at the college have been in closing gaps between black and white students in semester-to-semester retention. The retention rate from fall 2014 to fall 2015 was 68 percent for black students and 83 percent for white students. Three years later, the rates increased to 81 percent for black students and 84 percent for white students.

“To be selected as a Leah Meyer Austin Award winner, a college must be courageous enough to make big changes in everything that impacts the ability of their students to be successful,” Karen Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, said in a news release. “Amarillo College and Columbus State College are strong examples of institutions that took bold action to align college-wide solutions that result in significant and sustainable institutional improvement.”

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Ashley A. Smith

Ashley A. Smith, Reporter, covers community colleges, for-profit schools and non-traditional students for Inside Higher Ed. She joined the publication in 2015 after covering government and K-12 education for the Fort Myers News-Press in Florida for three years. Ashley also covered K-12 and higher education for three years at the Marshfield News-Herald in Wisconsin. She has interned with The Flint Journal, USA Today and the Detroit Free Press. Ashley grew up in Detroit and is a 2008 graduate of Michigan State University. 

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