Meeks Tells Story of How a Small Community College Became Remarkable

On July 21-23, UMUC held the Learner Analytics Summit, a convening of select universities, community colleges, national organizations, state and national departments of education, private firms focused on data analytics work in education, and foundations. 

The entertaining and sincere lunch speaker on the final day of the summit was Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, serving Eastern Ohio, an area of the country hit hard by lay-offs from the decline of the steel industry. Eastern Gateway, with a student population that is 70 percent first-generation, African-American, has grown more than 78 percent under her tenure. The college has gained national recognition, including being named an initial Leader College in the Achieving the Dream national student success movement and receiving more than $34 million in federal and private grants. Recently, Eastern Gateway was recognized by the American Association of Community Colleges as one of the fastest growing colleges in the United States.

Meeks gave the audience a remarkable story about how Eastern Gateway has achieved these phenomenal milestones and accolades. Her presentation was called “The Heart of the Matter.”

“Most of you are IR people, and you are so smart with data, and that is my weakness,” she confessed. “But data does keep our eyes focused. I’m evaluated on success factors, and some are going backwards. All I have to do is show what we are doing, and that is the way it should be. A president’s accountability should be for what’s happening in terms of learning.” Meeks further explained that the college’s board of trustees liked this process so well that they developed a scorecard matrix for themselves. “At every meeting we go over the scorecard. At every board meeting we have aggregated data that shows student success measures.”

In the end, of course, the true heart of the matter is, in fact, all about learning. Meeks claimed that 100 percent of their state funding comes from student outcome results, comprised of 50 percent from course completion rates (D or above), 25 percent based on six completion and retention factors created by the chancellor, and the remaining 25 percent based on whether students completed a degree or a state-approved certificate comprised of at least 30 credit hours.

George Lorenzo is editor and publisher of The SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies and president of Lorenzo Associates, Inc., a content development service for higher education (

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