West Hills College wins $2.5 million award for innovative registration program

From West Hills College

West Hills College is $2.5 million ahead thanks to an innovative program it launched a year ago that allows students to register for classes for a full year, all at once. West Hills has been named as a winner of the California Innovation Awards for Higher Education.

The local community college is among 14 colleges statewide to win one of the prizes, and the only Central Valley college to be included in the list of winners. The honor comes with the $2.5 million award. West Hills was recognized for its unique advance-registration innovation, Reg365, launched in 2014 that allows students to register for classes for a full year.

A Select Committee appointed by the Department of Finance met last week in Sacramento. The committee approved the list of 14 recipients and determined the funding to each of the colleges. The awards range from $5 million to $2.5 million, based on scores.

As an incentive to urge colleges to focus on innovative reforms to help students earn degrees, the state approved a one-time budget item of $50 million to be distributed to those colleges who demonstrated significant impacts on improving time-to-degree completion, easing transfer through the state’s higher education system, and increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in California.

There were 58 entry applications from throughout the state. A competitive scoring process was devised and point totals sent to the Select Committee. The list named 14 colleges that received the highest scores of all the applicants.

“This is significant recognition of our ‘relentless pursuit of student success’ approach at West Hills,” said Chancellor Frank Gornick, West Hills Community College District. “Reg365 changes the way students plan and approach their class schedules, which generates a stronger commitment to success and retention, and eliminates roadblocks to completion. When students know there is a seat waiting for them in the next course in a sequence, they can count on reaching their transfer goals in the shortest possible time.”

The program rolled out a year ago and students responded immediately, according to Stuart Van Horn, Vice Chancellor, Educational Services and Workforce Development. Van Horn, who crafted the application, said students really like the program. “When the spring semester started this past January, 73 percent of the students had already locked in their class schedule some nine months earlier,” he said. The advance-enrollment process was a challenge to college staff, he said, but in the end there were relatively few glitches. “It went pretty well, and we’re improving it as we go.”

Of the 58 applications received by the state, half were from community colleges. Five of the 14 colleges selected to receive an award were community colleges, and West Hills was the only one from the Central Valley. Other recipients included one UC and eight CSU campuses.

The $2.5 million one-time award will be used to fund further innovation in “the three areas that are related to the priorities of the award program,” said Ken Stoppenbrink, Deputy Chancellor, WHCCD. “That was the main thrust of the state’s funding these awards.” A spending plan must be submitted to the state in mid-April, he said.

The award not only brings recognition to the programs at West Hills, but “it means a continued focus on our relentless pursuit of student success,” said Don Warkentin, President, West Hills College Lemoore. “It’s all related to our early adoption of other innovations, such as educational plans, priority registration, and voter-supported funding for new technology. By combining Reg365, our Apple iPad initiative which provides support for faculty development and the use of technology in the classroom, and our partnerships with Achieving the Dream and the Lumina Foundation, we’re transforming the learning environment.”

Carole Goldsmith, President, West Hills College Coalinga, said Reg365 “redesigned our enrollment methods” and changed the existing model. “Traditionally, a student would register for summer and fall classes and then wait until November to sign up for the spring semester. Reg365 allows them to also sign up for the following spring and schedule a full year’s worth of courses at one time. It helps emphasize the importance of completion-oriented planning rather than the older term-to-term view of registration and enrollment.”


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