San Jacinto College, located in East Harris County near Houston, was recently named a national top 5 community college by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence. One of the major reasons for this award is the innovative faculty and staff who are committed to student success for a diverse population of approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year.
In an effort to remove barriers and help students succeed in their educational goals, San Jacinto College faculty and student services staff met throughout the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters to begin the work of mapping more clear, concise associate degree plans for students in order to remove barriers that were unintentionally created. Faculty and student services staff worked with information technology staff to move those degree programs into the Banner ERP System through “My San Jac GPS,” a web-based tool that creates a semester-by-semester road map toward completion. Students and educational planners can audit progress and create “what-if” scenarios to helps students understand options when changing their degree plans. These educational road maps not only include their academic work at San Jacinto College, but faculty have also mapped out transfer pathways for the top three institutions that San Jacinto College students often transfer to for completion of their bachelor’s degrees.
Textbook costs remain one of the largest barriers to completion. In an effort to help alleviate this barrier, the College launched open educational resource (OER) course options in fall 2017. OER courses use digital, peer-reviewed, open-licensed course materials instead of physical textbooks, saving students thousands of dollars annually. OER is a growing innovative practice among two and four-year institutions nationwide, contributing to increased student retention and completion rates. To date, there are currently 4,509 San Jacinto College students enrolled in 184 OER course sections that have saved nearly $500,000 in textbook costs. The College intends to dramatically increase the number of OER course offerings by spring 2020, estimating that students could save more than $3.5 million.
Ultimately, San Jacinto College faculty continue to strive to create innovative solutions for students to become independent learners and successful at transfer institutions or in the workplace.