2017 Leah Meyer Austin Award - Pierce College District

Founded 50 years ago in an abandoned grocery store, Pierce College today enrolls more than 20,000 students in multiple physical locations in Lakewood and Puyallup, Washington, and online. Driven by a mission to create quality educational opportunities for a diverse community of learners, Pierce has always taken pride in its student-centered culture.

Several years ago, however, when Pierce began a concerted look at its aggregated student success data, the college was startled to find that its retention, course completion, and graduation rates were not at acceptable levels. Fall-to-fall retention rates hovered just above 50 percent, for example, and three-year graduation rates were below 20 percent. Moreover, when data were disaggregated, the numbers showed that Pierce was not living up to its own expectations for delivering equitable education for all its students.

“Equity was a key element, whether that had to do with ethnicity, first-generation students, Pell grantees, gender issues, or single parents,” says Dr. Michele L. Johnson, the chancellor of Pierce College. Given that Pierce is an open access institution, Johnson says, “it’s a falsehood if we open the door and then don’t provide resources for success.”

Pierce saw that to fully deliver on the promise of its goals for student success in a genuinely student-centered culture, it needed to better understand its data and to learn to make better evidence- based decisions. That realization sparked the college into action that would eventually result in broad-scale cultural changes.

Read the brochure to learn more about how they did it.

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