August 31, 2011

Achieving the Dream at PCCC

Today was scheduled to be the college convocation, but Hurricane Irene and a record flood stage on the Passaic River and the Great Falls here in Paterson has cancelled that.

One of the main topics for convocation was to be discussion on our participation in Achieving the Dream. Achieving the Dream is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping more community college students succeed, particularly students of color and low-income students. 

Achieving the Dream advances community college student success through work on four fronts: 

  1. Transforming community colleges 
  2. Influencing policy 
  3. Developing new knowledge 
  4. Engaging the public  

Passaic County Community College (PCCC) opened in 1971 with a few hundred students. Today, PCCC enrolls more than 8,000 students a year in over 60 associate degree, certificate, and diploma programs. The college is also home to an extensive program of ESL, continuing education, and customized training. The college operates four campus locations including the main campus in Paterson, academic centers in Passaic and Wanaque, and a public safety academy in Wayne, New Jersey. 

PCCC is federally-defined as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, one of approximately 230 such colleges and universities nationwide, and is among the most diverse colleges in the state and the nation. The Writing Initiative grant which we work on here is a Title V federal grant for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. 

The most recent graduating class of PCCC included students from 54 different nations. Serving a largely at-risk, disadvantaged student population, PCCC has students attending the college at varying levels of academic, social, and financial need. The total student enrollment for Fall 2009 was comprised of 48% Hispanic and Latino students and 17% were African American students. 

Improving student success is a goal of the college’s Strategic Plan, which is linked to PCCC's seven institutional goals. Passaic County also envisions the improvement of teaching and learning for diverse students, and the re-engineering of tutorial laboratory services for ESL and developmental students.

With the help and guidance of Achieving the Dream, the college seeks to:
  • Provide a learner-centered environment focused on student success
  • Make higher education accessible to the community they serve
  • Develop interventions targeting specific groups of at-risk students
Within the past seven years, PCCC has undertaken a comprehensive effort to improve student writing skills. In 2004, the college gathered data that indicated that poor student writing was prevalent throughout the institution and was therefore eroding the quality of academic programs. The college has since been able to establish a College Writing Center on its main campus, therefore providing students enrolled in writing intensive courses with access to writing support from trained tutors. PCCC leaders hope that Achieving the Dream will assist them in reallocating resources for their initiatives as well as help them to expand more promising programs and services.

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