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Amarillo College, Columbus State Community College honored for student success gains, reduced achievement gaps


Kresge Trustee Paula Pretlow (left) presented the Leah Meyer Austin Award to officials from Amarillo College (pictured) and Columbus State Community College.
Kresge Trustee Paula Pretlow (left) presented the Leah Meyer Austin Award to officials from Amarillo College (pictured) and Columbus State Community College.

Amarillo College and Columbus State Community College were named the 2019 Leah Meyer Austin Award winners this week by longtime Kresge Foundation partner Achieving the Dream. The award honors two-year colleges that take a holistic approach to reducing achievement gaps between student groups and increasing success for all. The award is the highest honor a community college within the Achieving the Dream network can receive.

Kresge Trustee Paula Pretlow presented both awards on behalf of the foundation.

“Your institutions are indeed the engines driving educational outcomes for the people we most want to reach,” said Pretlow.

Kresge sponsors the Leah Meyer Austin Award, which includes a $25,000 prize to each awardee institution. The award’s namesake, Leah Meyer Austin, was an early member of Achieving the Dream’s board of directors whose visionary leadership shaped the organization’s development.

Amarillo College, in Amarillo, Texas, was honored for its transformative use of data to quickly and decisively address poverty-related obstacles that impact student success. The college proactively contacts students who experience poverty and connects them to needed supports. The college’s Advocacy & Resource Center, which provides students access to a food pantry, clothing closet, scholarship assistance and emergency aid, saw 5,600 visits in the 2017-18 school year. The college also recently opened a counseling center, legal-aid clinic, career and employment center and childcare center.

“Achieving the Dream really forced us to look at the students we have, to really see who they were and what they needed from us,” said Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart, who accepted the award on behalf of the school.

Columbus State Community College, in Columbus, Ohio, was honored for its holistic student success strategies that cover the entire student pipeline – matriculation, persistence and completion. Columbus State leads the Central Ohio Compact of K-12 school districts, universities and employers. Currently, 97 percent of new students participate in one or more of the college’s student success interventions, which lead to higher retention. These interventions also help narrow equity gaps in course success and retention between white and black students. These approaches have led to gains in course completion and graduation rates.

This year, Achieving the Dream celebrates 15 years as a national, nonprofit champion for evidence-based postsecondary institutional improvement to support student success. Achieving the Dream’s network of over 220 postsecondary institutions, 100 coaches and advisers, and partners helps more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity.