San Jacinto College named ATD Leader College of Distinction

Feb 20, 2020Amanda Fenwick

Ten community colleges earn honor for excellence in student success

PASADENA, Texas — San Jacinto College is one of 10 community colleges nationwide to have earned Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction status for achieving new, higher student outcomes and narrowing equity gaps.

"Accelerating improvement in student success outcomes is difficult work and requires a sustained commitment from the entire college community," said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. "Small but national recognitions like this one are important for affirming and applauding the often unsung and behind-the-scenes work of these institutions."

Achieving the Dream created the Leader College of Distinction award in 2018 to recognize colleges that have continued striving to meet challenging student success goals, often earning Leader College status several times. Leader Colleges of Distinction must show improvement in three measures, including a lagging indicator such as completion, and are also required to show how they have shrunk performance discrepancies in at least two metrics between groups disaggregated by gender, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

"San Jacinto College is dedicated to the academic and career success of our students," said Dr. Laurel Williamson, San Jacinto College deputy chancellor and college president. "Our Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff are committed to continually finding new ways to remove barriers for our students so that they can complete their certificates or associate degrees. We are excited about receiving the Leader College of Distinction designation from Achieving the Dream, and thank the review committee for this recognition."

San Jacinto College has developed specific initiatives that support student success while closing the equity and completion gaps. Those initiatives include ...

  • Mandatory New Student Orientation for first-time-in-college students with a focus on career guidance assessment
  • Faculty professional development in Avid Higher Education and course mapping
  • Partnerships with local school districts to develop tools to help eighth graders make informed decisions of Texas endorsements
  • Developing open educational resources classes and programs that have saved students more than $10 million in textbook costs
  • Faculty-provided academic support and services through the Student Success Centers, Writing Centers, Veterans Centers, and mentoring

The College increased persistence from Year 1 to Year 2 by four percentage points from 61% to 65%. A further look into the data shows a five-percentage point increase that eliminated the equity gap between first-generation and non-first-generation students (from 5% to 0%). The College attributes this success to the redesigned onboarding program that includes the New Student Orientation for students with fewer than 15 semester credit hours ,during which students complete a career assessment and meet with an advisor to review the assessment results, discuss potential careers, and select a career pathway.

San Jacinto College also shows increases in completion of a certificate or associate degree within four years of initial enrollment. Although the equity gaps did not close in any of the studied groups, all groups show an increased student completion rate of 8 percentage points and no gaps increased.

"We really attribute this increase in completion rates to a reduction in the number of semester credit hours our students take from 94 in 2014 to 84 in 2018," added Williamson. "This means our students are completing their degrees in less time and are getting into the workforce or transferring to a four-year college or university to complete their educational journeys."

Only colleges that have been Leader Colleges for three or more years were eligible to apply for this status. San Jacinto College first became an Achieving the Dream Leader College in 2011. Achieving the Drean anticipates that earning the new honor will position colleges to be successful in competing for its Leah Meyer Austin Award. In addition, the increased visibility should help accelerate the adoption of effective practices across the Network Institutions and the community college field as a whole.

The 2019 cohort of Leader Colleges of Distinction are:

  • Alamo Colleges District (TX) — 2020 Leah Meyer Austin award winner
  • Austin Community College District (TX)
  • Brazosport College (TX)
  • Columbus State Community College (OH) — 2019 Leah Meyer Austin award winner
  • Grayson College (TX)
  • Harper College (IL) — 2016 Leah Meyer Austin Award Winner
  • Montgomery County Community College (PA) — 2014 Leah Meyer Austin award winner
  • Northern Virginia Community College (VA)
  • Porterville Community College (CA)
  • San Jacinto College (TX)

About Achieving the Dream

Achieving the Dream leads a growing network of 277 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. Achieving the Dream is making progress in closing academic achievement gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college's institutional capacities in seven essential areas. Achieving the Dream, along with 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries, and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. The College is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor's and Moody's. San Jacinto College is a 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 institution, a 2017 Aspen Prize Rising Star Award recipient, and an Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction. The College serves approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students annually, and offers eight areas of study that put students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. San Jacinto College's impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.