Persistence and Completion Toolkit

Our goal with this PSCCN Persistence and Completion Toolkit is to equip community college, university and community-based organization staff to support students in navigating the last phases of college.

The Toolkit was inspired by Project Finish Line, a partnership that focused upon a direct intervention at community and technical colleges who employed Completion Coaches: Green River College and the Seattle College District’s three campuses (North Seattle, Seattle Central, and South Seattle) from 2015–2017. Completion coaches re-engaged students who were encountering barriers to credential completion and connected them with resources to enable them to finish their degrees. Partners made changes to campus policies and cultures to address students’ needs, and the Toolkit shares key Project lessons and resources in a user-friendly format. Walla Walla Community College, winner of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence served as the project mentor.

What is Included in This Toolkit?

The Persistence and Completion Toolkit complements the PSCCN Financial Aid Toolkit, an online resource including materials to support students and families with the financial aid application process. The Toolkit includes:

  • A brief rationale for focusing on completion
  • Guidance on frequently asked questions about challenging scenarios encountered by students who are close to graduating
  • Staff resources to guide planning and outreach efforts
  • Student and campus communications templates to use with your students and staff
  • Research, evaluation and other knowledge about persistence and completion to help make a case for this work

Who Should Use This Toolkit?

This Toolkit has been designed by and for staff in colleges and community-based organizations who serve students close to completing their degree or certificate.  We hope that it is a helpful resource for anyone who is supporting students on their path to meeting their educational goals.

Why Focus on Completion?

By 2018, two in three jobs in Washington State were expected to require a postsecondary credential.1 However, in recent years, community college completion rates have remained low and even declined slightly. According to Complete College America, only 31% of first-time, full-time community college students earn degrees within three years. Non-completers with some college education but no credential, experience no real benefit in their wages or employability. The impact of low community college completion rates is disproportionately felt by low-income and students of color.2

The majority of students who drop out of college do so during or after their second year. These students comprise a "Murky Middle" where graduation outcomes are difficult to predict. Most of late-stage dropouts had a GPA between 2.0 and 3.0 when they returned for a second year.3 This raises the need for colleges and community partners to consider the ways in which can improve how to support students to meet their educational and professional goals.

Washington Student Achievement Council, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, & Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. (2013, October). A skilled and educated workforce: 2013 update. Retrieved October 2018, from

2 The Century Foundation Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal. (2013, May). Bridging the higher education divide: Strengthening community colleges and restoring the American dream. New York, NY: The Century Foundation Press.

3 EAB (no date). Murky Middle Infographic. Retrieved October 2018, from