The Complete College Montana Summit was held on Wednesday at the University of Montana with over 150 stakeholders from the Montana University System, public schools and Montana tribal college representatives.

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education John Cech said the goal of the summit was to implement strategies designed to increase both college retention, and ultimately graduation.

“Student retention is extremely important,” Cech began. “Here are a couple of statistics. At the four year level, the retention rate is 75 percent from fall to fall. For our two-year colleges the aggregate rate is 49 percent. The completion rate for our four year colleges is 53 percent, while at the two year institutions, it’s 20 percent. We feel we can do better, in fact, we must do better.”

One of the troubling statistics Cech mentioned involved the problems with mathematics, a required course for each college freshman.

“If a student is placed into remedial math, that is, they’re just not ready for college math, their chances of completing their degree are less than 10 percent,” he said. “So, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and looked at new strategies to help students be more successful in math.”

Cech also said that student advising is becoming more and more vital for a successful college experience.

“One of the strategies we’re implementing is a campaign called ’15 to finish’,” he said. “If they want to finish a four year degree, they have to take a minimum of 15 credits per semester for four years. This is where advising is so important, to help ensure that the student takes the right courses to keep them on track for graduation.”

Cech also said because Montana is an aging state, there will be a significant worker shortage within the next decade, and if students are not properly prepared with a college education, they won’t be able to fill the thousands of jobs that will be available.

“This all starts in middle school and in high school, which is why we’re so excited to have our stakeholders from the public schools as part of this Complete College Montana summit,” he said. “They’re excited about it and they want to be at the table and be a part of these discussions.”

Complete College America focuses on increasing the number of Americans with career certificates or college degrees, closing attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.