College system selected to work on two high-level national student success initiatives

Business students at Nashville State Community College

The College System of Tennessee, governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, has been selected to participate in two high-level national projects to help improve college student success, both funded by the prestigious Lumina Foundation in partnerships with other national higher education organizations.

The system is one of four state higher education systems – and the only community and technical college system – selected by the National Association of System Heads (NASH) to identify and scale up High Impact Practices (HIPs) that improve student success. TBR has implemented several cutting-edge HIPs in recent years to help students acclimate to college, progress toward graduation and earn degrees. They include more intensive student advising, first-year seminars, honors programs, learning communities, study abroad opportunities, technology enhanced learning, undergraduate student research, service learning and work-based learning.

And last week, TBR was selected as the first statewide system to work on a national Comprehensive Student Records initiative, which expands student records from the traditional transcript of courses and grades to students’ other curricular and co-curricular experiences. Internships, leadership experiences and many other co-curricular experiences provide students with competencies that do not appear on a traditional transcript but their inclusion would help them articulate their value to potential employers and graduate and professional schools.

TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings said the college system is pleased to work with some of the nation’s most prestigious higher education systems, organizations and institutions on initiatives to improve student success. “Helping our students succeed is why we’re here, and to have our initiatives recognized by these organizations is testament to the hard work every day on our campuses and in our system office,” she said.

High Impact Practices

Lumina Foundation is the nation’s largest private foundation focused solely on increasing Americans’ success in higher education. Lumina awarded NASH, which represents chief executives of state college and university systems across the U.S., a $1.2 million grant in September to support deeper implementation of NASH’s Taking Student Success to Scale initiative, a “holistic strategy for student success.”

On Nov. 30 after a competitive review, NASH selected the Tennessee Board of Regents, the University System of Georgia, the Montana University System and the University of Wisconsin System to scale up the HIPs at colleges in their systems.

“This diverse cohort of four systems is well positioned to focus on the outcomes of the project, which are to scale High Impact Practices and Equity-Minded Learning Pathways with intentional strategies for success for underrepresented minority students,” NASH Executive Director Rebecca Martin said. “The review committee is confident that as a cohort they will contribute both in their states and to a national conversation about improving student learning.”

Goals of the project include:

  • Identifying and advancing promising HIPs at both the system and campus levels.
  • Demonstrating the impact of a coordinated approach to student success, including integration with faculty, curriculum and learning outcomes.
  • More high-quality HIPs for all students but with a focus especially on access and impact of these innovations for underrepresented minority and low-income students.
  • Creating tools for implementing and tracking high-impact practices for use by systems and campuses.

At TBR colleges, HIPs help students who may be at risk of dropping out to complete college – but also help all students do better, said Dr. Heidi Leming, TBR vice chancellor for student success.

“The approach we have taken at TBR is to help faculty identify the teaching practices that have been shown to engage students in ways that connect classroom knowledge with real-life experiences. When underrepresented students participate, we know that this approach can be very powerful to their retention and success. This grant will help faculty identify how best to engage students in academic and transfer pathways with particular attention paid to programs that enroll higher numbers of underrepresented students,” Leming said.

Comprehensive Student Records

Lumina awarded a separate $1.2 million grant to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and NASPA: Association of Student Affairs Professionals, to continue their work on the development and adoption of comprehensive student records. AACRAO and NASPA selected the College System of Tennessee last week to implement comprehensive learner records across its community and technical colleges.

Leming is also leading the student records work at TBR. She said the idea is that a more complete record of students’ overall college experiences will better describe the competencies they are learning inside and outside the classroom and help them market themselves to employers and graduate and professional schools.

A comprehensive student record is a fuller reflection of student learning and achievement, the partnership said. It includes the traditional transcript, which is still highly valuable within higher education, but expands beyond credits, grades and courses to provide students with a record of meeting learning outcomes. Technology makes the collection of such data easier.

As students build more comprehensive records at community colleges, they’ll want the records to transfer with them to universities as they pursue bachelors’ and graduate degrees. Leming will work to engage Tennessee universities in the project, encouraging them to accept the more comprehensive records and continue building on them.

“The TBR system is excited to be selected to participate in the next phase of the Comprehensive Student Record project with AACRAO and NASPA,” said Leming. “This project builds upon Tennessee’s existing work in high impact practices by examining how we articulate the competencies students gain in curricular and co-curricular activities to transfer institutions as well as employers. As a system, we will engage the 40 TBR institutions and public postsecondary universities in this collaborative project.”

For more information on TBR’s High Impact Practices:

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.