Finish to Go Further: Completing Your Degree or Certificate

Completing your college degree or certificate is key to success. Not only does it create better job opportunities and elevate earning power, but it also gives graduates momentum to go further in all aspects of their lives. ACC and Western Governors University Texas are working to promote the importance of completion through a partnership called “Finish to Go Further.” Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO, and Dr. Mark David Milliron, chancellor of WGU Texas, highlighted this partnership in an op-ed published in the Austin American-Statesman.

Finish to Go Further

Richard Rhodes, President/CEO, Austin Community College District

Mark David Milliron, Chancellor, Western Governors University Texas

Finish Strong. It’s an admonition coaches and politicians use all the time. Finishing strong makes it more likely that all the hard work, tenacity, and focus pay off. It’s about crossing the finish line and reaping the rewards, whether it’s a team victory or an electoral squeaker.

For a host of economic, educational, and personal reasons, we need to bring this focus on the finish to education. We need to challenge ourselves and our students to ensure that their hard work, tenacity, and focus pay off in at minimum better job opportunities, better skill sets, and better habits of mind.

Far too few students, however, ever get this payoff. Nationally, only about half of the students who start higher education ever finish a credential that counts. Low income students have the rockiest road; with some studies showing that those who need the payoff the most are less than 20 percent likely to ever cross the stage. These data hit hard given that a post-secondary credential with value in our economy—an accredited and industry-recognized certification, diploma, or degree—is the single biggest disruptor of the cycle of poverty.

Austin Community College ( and WGU Texas ( are bringing a laser focus to a new partnership—Finish to Go Further. We are developing aligned programs in IT, Business, Health, and Education to inspire students to not only start, but also to finish well—and often—so they are positioned to go further.  From (1) associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree pathways that include certifications along the way to (2) a comprehensive transfer agreement with waived admissions fees and discounted tuition to (3) a Finish to Go Further scholarship program, we intend to make finishing quality credentials the centerpiece.

Data from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University and the Washington State Board’s academic momentum studies are compelling on this strategy. Students who finish an industry certification are far more likely to finish an associate degree. Students who transfer to a university after finishing the associate degree are significantly more likely to achieve the bachelor’s degree than those who transfer without the credential. Equally important, if “life happens” anywhere along this journey—kids get sick, jobs get lost, money  runs out—students are more likely have a credential that helps them get and keep a good job even if they need to stop out for a time. This is especially important for low-income students for whom the journey to a 4-year degree can take 6-8 years.

Finishing matters. It matters because it allows our community and our state to get a far better return on our investment in education. Most important, however, the habit of Finishing to Go Further helps striving students succeed, in school and in life. It propels them on a powerful pathway to possibility that we are committed to improving.

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