What is the Bellwether?

I am proud to announce that Weekend College at Lee College was nominated for the Bellwether Award. What is the Bellwether, you ask? You know, I didn’t know myself when I got the notification. So I did some Internet sleuthing. … OK, I looked on their website.

The Bellwether Award is given by the Bellwether College Consortium out of University of Florida – College of Education. According to its website, the Bellwether College Consortium “promotes effective post-secondary programs for replication at higher education institutions across the nation.” That sounds pretty impressive. Now the Bellwether Awards “recognize outstanding and innovative programs and practices that are successfully leading community colleges into the future” (https://education.ufl.edu/bellwether/). After reading the Web page and seeing which programs have been nominated in the past, I was like, “Wow! This is an honor.”

With the help of Laurie from the Lee College Grants Office, Chris from Lee College Marketing, and the dedicated Weekend College team, I feel we submitted an outstanding application. The application consisted of a one-minute video about the program. You can watch the video:

There was also a short 500-word essay describing Weekend College. I have copied and pasted below for you.

Over 70 percent of Lee College students attend school part time, taking 2-6 years to graduate with an associate’s degree. To address this roadblock to graduation, Lee College, with financial support from the First in the World Grant, a Department of Education – Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), created the Weekend College. Weekend College is an innovative, comprehensive program to address the challenges facing the adult learner.

In addition to having classes on the weekend, our students get full degree programs with intensive advising from a dedicated College Completion Coach, access to 24/7 online tutoring, cohort learning communities, strong relationships with their instructors, and guaranteed course offerings.

The Weekend College offers five complete associate’s degree programs in business management, computer and network maintenance technology, general studies in social sciences, industrial welding technology, and transfer in Allied Health and industrial welding technology. Utilizing cutting edge techniques such as block scheduling, online classes, Web-enhanced/hybrid classes and eight-week classes, our students complete up to 17 credits each semester; therefore, our students graduate with their degrees in 21 months.

Addressing the issues of students not being college-ready, the Weekend College incorporates concurrent developmental coursework into the degree plan, expediting college readiness.

Weekend College program is a research-driven grant with an external evaluator, conducting a quasi-experimental evaluation comparing Weekend College (WC) students with comparable Lee College students (CG) receiving traditional services. Data from our first graduation class shows:

  • For Cohort 1 during the combined two-year period, WC students earned, on average, a GPA of 0.71 higher than CG, and on average, 21.8 more credits more than CG.
  • Combining Cohort 1 and 2 for the two-year period, WC students became math college-ready at a magnitude 6.0 times greater than CG students and reading/writing college ready at a magnitude 5.2 times greater than CG students.
  • For Cohort 1, WC students were 9 times more likely to graduate than CG students. Minorities were 6 times more likely to graduate, and males were 18 times more likely to graduate than CG students.

We are proud to announce that our graduation rate for our first cohort was 70 percent and was completed in the allotted two-year period.

A key lesson learned was the need to develop comprehensive degree plans with the support of administrators and faculty. In addition, since classes were held on the weekend, we had to ensure that facilities were open and available for students. In general, there needs to be open communication between all departments and operational systems of the college, to guarantee a smooth delivery of programs to the students.

Wish us luck!

UPDATE (11/16/2017)

We were notified that we were not selected as a finalist, but we are a finalist alternative. So if for some reason the finalist cannot present at the conference, we will be invited as a finalist.

So we are the first runner-up in the beauty contest, and if for some reason the winner cannot complete its duties as assigned, we must fulfill the duties.

I think that is pretty awesome. And as they say at the Oscars, “It was an honor to be nominated!”