Pellissippi State Community College led Tennessee in the number of associate’s degrees awarded by two-year colleges this past school year, and now the college has established its first winter Commencement ceremony next month to accommodate graduates and their families.
Pellissippi State awarded 1,265 associate’s degrees in the 2012-2013 school year, more than any other two-year college in the state, according to the Tennessee Board of Regents, the school’s governing body. The college also awarded 935 certificates, the second highest number in Tennessee.
“Since L. Anthony Wise Jr. became president [in 2011], he has said he wanted us to become the No. 1 producer of associate’s degrees in the state. We did it!” said Rebecca Ashford, vice president of Student Affairs.
“We’ve been focusing on increasing graduation rates: from making the process for applying to graduate simpler for students, to implementing academic support programs, to increasing the number of cohort programs we offer, and even to changing our focus and message to students in advising.”
“It is generally advantageous to students to earn a degree, rather than to just take some courses and transfer,” said Lois Reynolds, assistant vice president of Academic Affairs, “because universities are more likely to accept all of the students’ credits with a complete degree.”
As the number of degrees awarded to Pellissippi State students has increased, the college’s annual Commencement ceremony in the spring has grown correspondingly larger. In May, 514 students walked across the stage at graduation.
“We’ve never had more than one graduation ceremony in an academic year,” said Ashford, “but at this past spring graduation ceremony, we had so many students and guests that we found we’d grown too big for our venue, and realized the ceremony has become less intimate.”
Pellissippi State’s administration responded by adding a second graduation ceremony: Friday, Dec. 13, the college will host its inaugural winter Commencement.
Any student graduating in summer or fall 2013 is eligible to walk across the stage at the ceremony. The event takes place at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
Ashford and Reynolds hope the ceremony will attract Pellissippi State graduates who earn their degrees in the summer or fall but otherwise would have declined to return for spring graduation.
Pellissippi State is among several of the state’s community colleges seeing gains in the number of degrees and certifications they award. This past school year, community colleges awarded 14,299 degrees and certificates—8,543 associate’s degrees and 5,756 certificates, according to TBR.
That number compares to 18,531 degrees and certificates awarded by universities, and the proportion of community college-to-university students who are graduating or earning certificates is increasing: in 2009, community colleges awarded only half as many degrees and certificates as universities.
For more information, call Pellissippi State at (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.