Harper College Receives National Award for Improving Student Outcomes

Press Release

$25,000 award for building whole-college solutions to improve student success and equity

Atlanta, GA (February 23, 2016) – Achieving the Dream today announced Harper College in Palatine, Illinois has won the eighth annual Leah Meyer Austin Award, a national honor awarded to a community college that takes whole-college approaches to improving student success and achieves notable increases in student outcomes.

Harper’s focus on transforming its culture and operations led to the following results during the period 2010 to 2014:

  • Increased graduation rate from 14 percent to 24 percent, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS)
  • Improved Hispanic/Latino students' graduation rate from 11 percent to 25 percent
  • Increased African-American students’ college-readiness in math rate from 15 percent to 58 percent
  • Raised Hispanic students’ college-readiness in math rate from 36 percent to 62 percent
  • Improved African-American students’ completion rate for developmental math from 10 percent to 21 percent.

“Harper College worked across the college community with support from school superintendents, business and university leaders to increase student outcomes,” said Achieving the Dream President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout. “This is clearly realized by the marked improvement in graduation rates across all student demographics over the four-year period.”

Along with the award, the college will receive $25,000 to support its ongoing student success efforts.

As this year’s award winner, Harper is being honored for college-wide collaboration, culture change, and community engagement to improve student completion. Harper’s president, Dr. Kenneth Ender, and administrators, faculty and staff committed to creating a culture of cooperation and transparency, which dovetailed with operational changes that affected operations, resource allocation and related policies.

These changes also gave rise to a community-based strategic planning process. The 2010–2015 strategic plan established four key strategic directions - inspiration, partnership, accountability and completion - that have sustained comprehensive, college-wide momentum to advance student success.

*For more information on the exemplary work of Harper College, click here.

The Leah Meyer Austin Award was established in 2008 to recognize Achieving the Dream colleges that design and implement college-wide approaches that promote student success and result in significant, sustainable institutional improvement. Successful colleges put in place policies, processes, and programs that reinforce and build on each other to improve student achievement and meet equity goals.


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Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 220 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing academic achievement gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with more than 100 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 40 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students.

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