Texas faces a critical challenge. Our state lags behind other states in college attainment. Projections show that unless we reverse the trend of declining college participation and success rates, Texas will gradually become less educated, less prosperous, and less economically competitive, with fewer opportunities and a lower quality of life for its people.
Austin Community College District's mission has always been to serve under-represented populations. ACC's Service Area spans eight counties rural, urban, and suburban communities, with a wide range of socio-economic status. When the State of Texas challenged all colleges and universities to improve their college-going rates, ACC developed College Connection as a model program to assist high school students with making that difficult transition to college.
The success of College Connection has been beyond expectation. Because of robust partnerships with our area school districts, the program has grown from serving one high school and one school district in 2003-2004 to serving 63 high schools and 25 school districts in 2012-2013. During that time, ACC has seen a 56% increase in enrollments from Central Texas seniors coming to college immediately after high school graduation. Central Texas seniors attending any state college or university directly after high school have increased by 21%.
But college access is not the only message we send through College Connection. Students attending ACC after participating in College Connection are successful, participating college students. They persist from semester-to-semester at higher rates than ACC's overall population. They average 73% passing grades (C or better). They withdraw from classes at the same rate as ACC's overall population. Also, College Connection enrollees are majority-minority, ensuring that under-represented populations find a college home to begin their educational journey.
We have many things to brag about at College Connection. We have won state and national awards; we have been highlighted in national publications; we have trained more than 20 colleges across the state and nation about how to implement the program. When you surf this site, you will find information about these achievements.
But what we are most proud of are the many high school seniors we have been able to assist to realize their potential as college-going adults. This program helps students take the steps they need to make a difference in their futures.
It is an honor to serve as the director of this program and to work with such dedicated high school personnel and ACC staff.
Melissa Richardson Curtis, Ph.D.