Sinclair recognized as national innovator in increasing college completion

Gates Foundation grant will build on their success and help more community colleges better serve students 

Sinclair is one of three Ohio community colleges collaborating as part of a national effort to devise and share new approaches to help more young people obtain a degree, certificate or credential. The schools will share a $500,000 planning grant to launch the five-year project in Ohio. Participating colleges include Sinclair Community College, Lorain County Community College, and Stark State College.

The Ohio colleges are among those chosen from four states for the Completion by Design project, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The colleges were selected because of their innovative ideas on improving the completion rates on their campuses. They were picked for the project after a rigorous competition that was announced last October at the White House Summit on Community Colleges.

“Sinclair is proud to partner with Lorain and Stark State to bring this initiative to Ohio,” said Sinclair President Steven Johnson. “Our state’s economy is transforming. Today’s jobs require higher skills. We need more young people to finish college and be ready for the jobs that will grow Ohio’s economy. This program is about using a rigorous, data-driven approach to complete more students and build hope for the future of our state.”
Completion by Design aims to build on proven, existing practices already underway at these forward-thinking community colleges which are already working to address the needs of todays students. They are doing this by focusing on new approaches to areas such as course scheduling, advising, and curriculum development.

Today, community colleges serve nearly 11 million students, and enrollment has surged as the recession caused many Americans to return for additional training and education. Community colleges also are evolving to serve todays students, who often are older and work full- or part-time to support families while attending school to obtain a degree or credential, respectively.

But too many students never finish. According to recent federal data, just 22 percent of first-time, full-time students in community colleges graduate in three years. For Hispanics and African-Americans, the rates are even worse, at 17 percent and 14 percent.

Leading more students to completion is important for our students, our economy and our country. A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that, by 2018, 63 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. The report also shows that, without a dramatic change in course, the labor market will be short 3 million educated workers over the next eight years.

Sinclair, Lorain, and Stark State are all recognized leaders in student success reform. Individually, each college has already done remarkable work. Collectively, they will work over the next twelve months to develop a plan that will outline pathways encouraging an unprecedented number of students to complete degrees, certificates and workforce credentials. In addition, the plan will address such aspects as data sharing, best practices, and statewide policy development to encourage the completion of more students.

“We believe that today’s students particularly low-income students need smarter, affordable postsecondary options that lead to high-quality outcomes,” said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation. “Completion by Design aims to give them that, and we are excited to support the innovative work being conducted by these outstanding colleges.”

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people especially those with the fewest resources have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.