LaTishia Watson, right, helps Caliscia Slaughter, left, with enrollment procedures at McLennan Community College. Watson earned her associate’s degree in criminal justice from MCC and completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice last year from Tarleton State University through MCC’s University Center. MCC is focusing on how to boost the number of students who obtain degrees or transfer to universities now that a portion of its funds will be based on various student success milestones.

Staff Photo— Jerry Larson

McLennan Community College is focusing on how to boost the number of students who obtain degrees or transfer to universities, now that a portion of its funding will be based on various student success milestones.

Transfer and degree-completion rates are among the criteria for new success points that will determine about 10 percent of MCC’s state funding allocation.

The Texas Legislature approved the new success points system for community colleges this year to complement the long-standing formula based on the total instruction hours colleges provide.

MCC has seen a steady increase in the number of students who transfer to universities. During the 2011-12 school year, 2,275 students moved on to four-year universities, a 21 percent increase compared to the 1,876 students who transferred in the 2009-10 school year.

Also in that time period, the number of students who completed an associate’s degree rose from 566 to 773, a 36.6 percent increase.

The university’s overall enrollment increased by 11.6 percent in that same time period.

“I’d always like to have quicker (growth), but I think it takes awhile,” MCC President Johnette McKown said. “Some of our new success strategies, they’re going to have to become institutionalized over time. They’re not just going to happen overnight.”

Some of the measures the 

college has started to improve student performance include more in-person and online tutoring services, creating a new college readiness course for first-time students, and hiring four success coaches to help students overcome personal and academic challenges.

Also, all Presidential Scholarship recipients are required to obtain an associate’s degree.

MCC’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapter also has spearheaded a pledge campaign to get more students to commit to earning a degree instead of just taking credits to transfer to a university.

Meanwhile, McKown thinks MCC’s University Center will be a steady boon to its transfer success. The on-campus center allows students to work on degrees from one of the six universities that have partnered with the college. Students pay the universities’ tuition rate, but take classes in person at MCC or online.

Enrollment for the center is climbing slowly. In 2009, 800 students were working on degrees through the center. Last year, 945 students were enrolled at the University Center.

The college aims to have about 2,500 students enrolled in the center, or roughly 25 percent of its average student body.

MCC’s administration has discussed tactics to build interest in the center as part of a new strategic plan for the college to garner more students from throughout Central Texas.

McKown said MCC would like to see the current university partners increase their degree offerings instead of the college courting more schools to join the University Center.

Largest presence

Tarleton State University has the largest presence with 35 degrees offered, followed by Texas Tech University, which offers four degrees. McKown said Texas Tech will offer a new biology degree in the fall and is discussing additional degree options.

“If they were just offering a few courses, it would be hard for the partners to afford to send the faculty (to teach at MCC),”
McKown said.

LaTishia Watson, 22, earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Tarleton through the University Center. Watson in 2011 finished an associate’s degree with a field of study in criminal justice from MCC.

Watson, a 2009 Connally High School graduate, now works in the admissions and recruitment office at MCC while completing a master’s in education in student development and leadership online through Angelo State University.

She plans to pursue a career in higher education and hopes her experiences will inspire other local students to start their educations at MCC.

“I was like, I’m here in Waco, I don’t really want to move. I work here in Waco and I can get a bachelor’s degree from Tarleton,” Watson said. “It’s the same degree, it’s nothing less than living in Stephenville and going to classes on campus. And some of the teachers are actually teachers who teach in Stephenville too, so that makes it even more realistic.”

Another aid to MCC’s transfer rate is the college’s growing relationship with Baylor University. Last year, the two schools partnered on a Baylor@MCC pilot program that allows wait-listed Baylor freshmen to take classes at both colleges before transferring to Baylor by their junior year.

MCC’s board of trustees is expected to hear a report on the program, which is to last for three years before officials decide whether to extend it permanently.

“Baylor is reaching out more than they ever have, and if you talk to students on campus, that’s kind of the dream place for many of them to go, is to Baylor,” McKown said.

Louis Yglecias transferred to Baylor last fall after finishing his associate’s with a field of study in business at MCC.

Transfer scholarships

Yglecias said he thought Baylor would be out of his reach financially, but he was offered scholarships for being an MCC transfer that, along with grants, fully cover his tuition.

He is on track to graduate in May with a bachelor’s of business administration in management information systems.

“I didn’t think it was real feasible, but as soon as I started realizing all the opportunities that would happen from being at MCC, it made it so much easier, as far as transferring all my classes, as far as the different scholarships they offered,” said Yglecias, 21.

“As far as being prepared in every way, (going to MCC) made the transition to Baylor a lot easier.”

McKown said Texas A&M University also tends to draw interest from students.

MCC in response has developed special degrees designed to help students transfer their credits more easily to A&M, like an associate’s degree in biomedical science.