Amanda Richoz wanted to pursue a career in child care. "I've always wanted to work with children," said Richoz. She has worked full-time at the Bethlehem Lutheran Child Development Center in Elgin for the past 26 years with a Child Development Associate® (CDA) CredentialTM, which requires a renewal every five years. “As a single parent, I had to work full time to support my family and I could only take a class here or there. This prevented me from finishing the degree I needed to secure my career in child care and not worry about renewing my certificate," said Richoz. In May, Richoz accomplished her goal — graduating with an Associate of Applied Science degree in education-early childhood with help from ECC's Complete to Compete Program.
Richoz isn't alone in balancing life and education. The Elgin Community College Foundation and Institutional Effectiveness and Research divisions recognized this challenge for students and established the Complete to Compete Program in 2019 to help students cross the finish line.
Data showed that the primary reason students did not complete their studies was due to obligations related to their work, family, and finances. "This was when we knew this program was right for the ECC Foundation," said David Davin, executive director of institutional advancement and the ECC Foundation. "When a student makes it this far and drops out due to finances, we recognize what a tragedy this is and we want to make sure we do whatever we can to help."
The program targets near-completer students who are 15 or fewer credit hours away from completing a degree. Utilizing advanced analytics, ECC identifies students most likely to stop enrolling for classes and intervenes before they drop out. Of those in the program, 90 percent graduated at the end of the 2020-2021 school year compared to a control group who did not participate and had a graduation rate of 47 percent.
"Being a Complete to Compete scholar gave me the drive and inspiration to finish my classes. There are so many programs and opportunities for the students to achieve their goals and accomplish their dreams," said Richoz.