Redesign leads to greater student success

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Students at Virginia’s community colleges are earning more credits and credentials and faster thanks to a statewide redesign of the colleges’ developmental education offerings. The State Board for Community Colleges received those findings in a report, conducted by the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) Office of Institutional Effectiveness during the board’s January meeting.

Developmental education classes in English and mathematics prepare individuals for college-level work, but do not count as college credit necessary to obtain a degree or certificate. The institutional challenge is to ensure that students receive the appropriate amount of support to succeed academically in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

“There is nothing easy about this kind of redesign work. The credit goes to the hundreds of faculty, staff members and administrators from across Virginia who committed seemingly endless hours to accomplish the goal of helping our students be better prepared and thus more successful,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

Prior to 2011, Virginia’s Community Colleges placed more than half of their entering students into developmental education classes. Results indicated that this approach was hindering rather than helping students; too many were failing to advance beyond that developmental education placement and go on to college-level courses.

Community college educators created Virginia Placement Tests (VPT) for both subjects to increase the accuracy of student placement. Since the VPT-Math test usage began, the number of students placing into developmental courses dropped from 37 percent to 27 percent. In English, the reduction was greater, going from 29 percent of entering students to 16 percent. The largest drop occurred among students who placed into developmental courses for both subject areas. That rate dropped by half, from 16 percent to 8 percent.

Since the 2011 redesign work, more students are completing college-level math and English in their first semester – an important predictor of a student’s likelihood of completing a degree. That number has increased by nearly 84 percent.

Virginia’s Community Colleges are also seeing more first-time-in-college (FTIC) students earn college credits faster since the redesign work. Before 2011, a quarter of those students completed at least 12 credits in their first semester. That number jumped to 37 percent last year.

Finally, more students are earning degrees faster since the redesign. Since the redesign, the number of program-placed students earning an associate degree in three or fewer years increased by 20 percent.

“Although we have more distance to cover before reaching our goals,” said Dr. Sharon Morrissey, vice chancellor, Academic Services & Research with VCCS, “I am incredibly proud of the progress to date. I am grateful for the effort from an outstanding group of people dedicated to helping improve our students’ college experiences.”

Virginia’s community colleges continue to seek ways to improve student success, including its developmental education offerings. By helping students realize their educational goals as efficiently as possible, we save tuition dollars, financial aid support, taxpayer resources and student time.

Virginia’s community colleges serve more than 252,000 students each year. For more information, visit