New Program Aimed at Increasing Graduation and Student Success


Kalamazoo Valley Community College is implementing a new program patterned after similar models in New York and Ohio where graduation rates have more than doubled. The new initiative, Kalamazoo Valley Accelerated Associate Program (KVAAP), is designed to boost academic momentum and support associate degree completion through comprehensive advising, financial assistance, structured educational pathways and full-time college attendance.

Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Services Dr. Dennis Bertch said that KVAAP addresses multiple needs of students to help improve their chance of successful degree completion. “Despite their good intentions and commitment, many students are unable to complete their educational requirements in a timely manner, if at all. Kalamazoo Valley is devoting full-time staff to provide comprehensive, personalized support and career development services as a part of this program,” Bertch said.

KVAAP is scheduled to enroll students for the fall semester and is housed at the college’s downtown Arcadia Commons Campus. Louis Thomas has been named the director of the program.

In addition to Kalamazoo Valley, Westchester Community College, which is part of the State University of New York System, and Skyline Community College in California are the latest campuses that are gearing up to implement this type of educational intervention and support.

“The model, originally implemented at City University of New York (CUNY), is achieving results that appear to be unduplicated elsewhere in regard to helping students who are in the developmental education sphere,” Bertch continued.

CUNY requires participating students to enroll full time and to take developmental courses immediately and continuously. The goal of their program was to double graduation. Three years after implementation, 40 percent of students graduated compared to 22 percent of control group students, according to MDRC, a nonprofit nonpartisan education and social policy research organization founded by the Ford Foundation.

Three community colleges in Ohio were among the first of other institutions to try the approach, despite having different demographics in different locations. Last year MDRC found that those three colleges - Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College were seeing early improvements in enrollment, retention and completion. “Working with the new director, Louis Thomas, and localizing an effort that is having great success elsewhere, we hope to make a measurable impact on graduation rates and help our students achieve their goals,” Bertch said. Students and families interested in the program must live in-district, be Pell Grant eligible, and will be required to complete an application for the program. More information is available by contacting Louis Thomas at

This article was posted on 03/02/2018.