Achieving the Dream selects Harper for top honor

Leah Meyer Austin AwardWhen Dr. Ken Ender took the reins at Harper, he found faculty and staff who were hungry for a college-wide strategy that emphasized student success. Too many students weren’t completing enough of the certificates and degrees they had come to college to earn, and people wanted to change that.

Achieving the Dream, a national reform network dedicated to helping community college students succeed and finish what they start, recognized the strides Harper has made since uniting around that common agenda.

The organization honored the college with the 2016 Leah Meyer Austin Award, which each year recognizes one Achieving the Dream institution that demonstrates outstanding achievement in creating policies, practices and a culture of equity and excellence in support of student success.

“Harper College’s willingness to make sweeping changes in its operations and culture have led to substantial improvements in student success,” said Achieving the Dream President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout. “Harper’s achievements show what is possible at community colleges all across the country.”

The award comes with a $25,000 prize to support Harper’s ongoing student success efforts.

Achieving the Dream pointed to several student success-driven initiatives as contributing to the Leah Meyer Austin Award, saying Dr. Ender, administrators, faculty and staff committed to creating a culture of cooperation and transparency, which dovetailed with operational changes that affected operations, resource allocation and related policies.

Harper’s focus on transforming its culture and operations led to the following results during the period 2010 to 2014:

  • Increased graduation rate from 14 percent to 24 percent, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS)
  • Improved African-American students' fall to spring persistence from 69 percent to 78 percent
  • Increased African-American students’ college-readiness in math rate from 15 percent to 58 percent
  • Raised Hispanic students’ college-readiness in math rate from 36 percent to 62 percent
  • Improved African-American students’ completion rate for developmental math from 10 percent to 21 percent

Dr. Ender said the strides Harper has made is strong start, but just that – a start.

“We are incredibly pleased and absolutely not satisfied,” he told the crowd gathered at Achieving the Dream’s annual meeting, which brings together nearly 2,000 influential policy-makers, investors, thought-leaders and practitioners from around the world.

The Leah Meyer Austin Award was established in 2008 to recognize Achieving the Dream colleges that design and implement college-wide approaches that promote student success and result in significant, sustainable institutional improvement. Successful colleges put in place policies, processes, and programs that reinforce and build on each other to improve student achievement and meet equity goals.

Media contact:Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159

Last Updated: 3/10/23