CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Higher education leaders signed a commitment last week to improve student success during their first year of college, as well as create momentum for graduation.

A group representing West Virginia higher education institutions committed to the state’s Momentum Pathways Project, which is aimed at increasing the number of degrees earned by students.

“We’ve been making a lot of progress on that,” said Corley Dennison, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the West Virginia Higher Education Commission. “We have a 23 percent increase in degree completion, so all of our institutions have already started the best practices. This was a formal commitment.”

Actions noted by Dennison include the 15 to Finish — which encourages students to sign up for 15 credit hours in a semester — changing developmental math and English courses and providing support services for students.

“There are a couple of studies that indicate West Virginia needs more certificates, more associate’s degrees, more bachelor’s degrees in order to meet workforce demands,” he said. “It’s very important that we start commiting to student success.”

Dennison said institutions have already been focused on improving academic achievement, but a decline of West Virginians in college have raised concerns in recent years.

“We are working on having a dedicated and ready workforce,” he said. “This is exactly the kind of things businesses look for when they are looking to come to a state. They want to know what kind of workforce we have, and increasing the number of degrees, making sure students are on the right pathways is exactly the kind of thing industry looks for.”

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