How can the success of a college be measured? People may measure a college’s success with graduation rates. But, does this number really indicate that the college has accomplished its mission and met the needs of its students? If the college’s mission is simply to graduate students and the students’ needs are simply to earn a diploma or degree, then yes.
Patrick Henry Community College’s aim is to change lives through education and to enrich the community it serves. How does a college measure the impact it has on its community through performing arts programs, or the surrounding workforce through its economic development initiatives, or the lives of individual students whose professors go the extra mile to help them reach their goals?
Measuring success at PHCC is also complicated because individual students at PHCC define their success differently. For some students, PHCC is a brief stop on a longer educational journey. These students gain the credits they need and then transfer to another institution to achieve their educational goals.
For some, PHCC’s short-term training is a path to a well-paying and satisfying career. After a few months of classes, these students are ready to take a national certification exam and then jump into the workforce with well-paying jobs.
For other students, PHCC is a place of discovery and learning – beyond textbooks and lectures. These students use their time at PHCC to discover the careers they want to pursue and to gain insight into themselves and their aspirations.
PHCC still encourages its students to get associate degrees. After all, having an associate degree unlocks a plethora of benefits–even for the students who plan to transfer. Statistics have shown that associate degrees can open employment opportunities, increase earning potentials, and generate scholarship opportunities.
Because these degrees have great value, PHCC will continue to find ways to help students graduate. From offering tutoring and procuring scholarship funds, to developing student support programs, much of what community colleges do is an effort to help students get from freshman orientation to the graduation stage. But, these programs are not exclusively for students who are aiming to get their associates degree.
“Because every student is an individual, with individual lives, and individual dreams and because helping our students succeed is central to our mission, we will offer every support we can to anyone who looks to us to help them shape their future–regardless of the impact that the goals they choose could have on our graduation numbers,” says PHCC’s Vice President of Academic and Student Success Services, Dr. Greg Hodges.
Anyone whose life could be enriched at PHCC is welcome–even if that enriching does not involve earning an associate degree. As long as students are meeting their goals and the community is growing as a result, Patrick Henry Community College is accomplishing its mission. The college’s success is defined by students’ success. Although this type of success can be difficult to measure, it is the type of success for which PHCC will continue to strive.