Biting The Bullet On Completion

Research has identified several ways for colleges that enroll lesser-prepared students to improve their graduation rates. But college leaders are often wary of those solutions, because they can take a whack at the bottom line and challenge a tradition of open doors.

Klamath Community College recently went all in with several measures aimed at improving student retention, including mandatory orientation for students, mandatory advising and the elimination of late registration for courses. The college’s new president, Roberto Gutierrez, said he knew those policies could discourage or freeze out some students.

He was right. Klamath saw its enrollment decline roughly 20 percent last fall, when compared to the previous year. The small college, which is located in Southern Oregon and enrolls about 1,500 students, will receive $800,000 less from the state this year, because Oregon’s funding formula for two-year institutions is largely enrollment-driven. That’s more than 7 percent of Klamath’s total annual budget.

“We were driven by doing the right thing,” said Gutierrez, but “it does hurt.”

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