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Md. Community Colleges Collaborate To Increase Graduation Rates

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All 16 of Maryland's community college presidents pledged to increase enrollment and graduation rates.
Kavitha Cardoza
All 16 of Maryland's community college presidents pledged to increase enrollment and graduation rates.

The education leaders of Maryland's community colleges say they've seen a record enrollment over the past few years. But now they say the challenge is getting more of their students to graduate.

The goal is for Maryland's community colleges to collectively increase the number of associate degrees awarded by 7,300 by 2025. That'll bring the annual total to 18,500.

Clay Whitlow, head of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, calls it's a "stretch goal."

"It's a goal that is ambitious, but not unrealistic," Whitlow says.

Community college leaders say recruiting students is not an issue -- it's getting students to complete what they began.

Approximately 20 percent of students who enter Maryland's community colleges to get an associate's degree have graduated four years later.

Anne Arundel Community College President Dr. Martha Smith says they serve students across the educational spectrum, from those who might not have a high school diploma to those who are working and want additional skills.

"And life just gets in the way. Family gets in the way or job schedules change," she says.

Smith says all the colleges are collaborating to come up with strategies such as suggesting online classes if a student's work hours change or providing students with more information on educational loans and grants so they can complete their degrees.

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