Achieving the DreamAchieving the Dream Overview

Who We Are: Achieving the Dream is the leader of a network that includes 277 institutions of higher education, 75 coaches and advisors, and numerous investors and partners working throughout 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Vision: A nation in which community colleges are highly valued for preserving access and ensuring that their students, especially low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity.

Mission: To lead and support a national network of community colleges to achieve sustainable institutional transformation through sharing knowledge, innovative solutions and effective practices and policies leading to improved outcomes for all students.

Goal: To help all students—particularly the most underserved—realize substantial value from their postsecondary experience and their earned credentials, thereby strengthening their communities.

For more than a decade, Achieving the Dream has served as a catalyst supporting community colleges to bolster student success. We guide colleges committed to improving student outcomes through an institutional change process designed to enable all students to earn certificates and degrees, improve their economic prospects and support their local communities. Our longstanding emphasis on building data capacity and encouraging leadership and innovation has shaped the national conversation on student success. Our focus on access and completion for low-income students and students of color is now a focus of every community college in the nation.

Today, Achieving the Dream is working toward a new definition of student success that incorporates not just interim objectives—the completion of degrees or certificates—but also longer-term ambitions for higher earnings and prosperous communities. In this next phase of work, we will continue to support colleges in improving student access and completion rates, and better align them with broader economic and social goals. We will be redefining student success as college access and completion that delivers economic benefits to students and the surrounding community. This vision of student success offers exciting possibilities for students, colleges and the education reform field.

From Achieving The Dream Start Right Guide 2019 Cohort. For more information, please visit: www.achievingthedream.org

The Dream Success Team

(Top Row Left to Right: Yhara Zelinka, Cat Carter, Teresa Foley, Stacey Musulin, Qing Mack, Michele Howard-Swan, Laurie Chancey, MaryBeth Rajczewski, Sam Irizarry, Chay Iv; Bottom Row Left to Right: Jennifer Meny, Amely Cross, Jill Rushbrook, Amanda Looney-Goetz, Joseph Berenguel, Marisa Rubera)

ACC Success Team Membership

  1. Co-Lead: Michele Howard-Swan
  2. Co-Lead: Amanda Looney-Goetz
  3. Co-Lead: Marisa Rubera
  4. Interim CEO: Michelle Coach
  5. Dean of Academic Affairs: Teresa Foley
  6. Dean of Students: Tim St. James
  7. Institutional Research: Caitlin Boger-Hawkins
  8. Liberal Arts Faculty: Laurie Chancey
  9. STEAM Faculty: MaryBeth Rajczewski
  10. STEAM Faculty: Amely Cross
  11. STEAM Faculty: James Chadic
  12. CAREERS Faculty: Sam Irizarry
  13. Registrar: Stacy Musulin
  14. Director of Admissions: Jennifer Meny
  15. Academic & Career Advisor: Cat Carter

Former success team members: Jill Rushbrook, Qing Mack, Joseph Berenguel, Yhara Zelinka


Accomplishments from Fall 2019 and Spring 2020: 

  • Finalized a definition of “student success”:

“A successful ACC student is empowered to achieve individual goals, develop critical thinking, interpersonal, and life-long learning skills, as well as resiliency and a readiness to engage with and contribute to a diverse community.”






Overall, there is an achievement gap between White students and students of color, particularly Black and Hispanic students. Relatively small gender gap. Student groups who are vulnerable to low success rates are: age 20-24, and/or part-time.  New students are most successful, then transfer, then continuing.


Earning zero credits in first year:

Looked at Students earning zero credits in first year, broken out by different categories including new students, transfer in, returning students broken out further by age, PT/FT time status, race/ethnicity, gender, and Pell status.

Trends observed:

·        New students are trending toward increase in earning zero credits over 5 years.

·        Under 20 years old more at risk, especially transfer in students.

·        Part time students are at greater risk of earning zero credits than full time.

·        New black non-Hispanic steady increase in earning zero credits over 5 years.

·        Female, new or returning are at risk at earning zero credits.

·        New or returning students who are non-pell are at greater risk of earning zero credits.

 Gateway Course Completion on Dashboard (ENG & MATH courses):

Trends observed: ATD Data Team Dashboard Observations Summary

SENSE data:

ACC scored lower than the CCC system and the national average on three of the six benchmarks: High Expectations and Aspirations, Clear Academic Plan and Pathway, and Effective Track to College Readiness. In each of these, we observed a downward trend over the 2009-2019 period.

Student responses for each benchmark were examined and discussed. Recommendations were to disaggregate by student type and other demographics and then triangulate to other data sources.