QUEENSBURY -- The goal at SUNY Adirondack is for 30 percent of its first-year, full-time students to graduate in three years.

Right now, that figure stands at 18 percent.

Across the nation, only 20 percent of full-time students graduate from a community college in three years.

A nationwide effort to produce more graduates is under way. New York has a plan as well, and it included Wednesday’s SUNY Completion Day, a first-time event to encourage students to graduate from college.

Each community college hosted different activities, but all had the same keynote speaker, Isa Adney, an author and community college graduate who discussed the benefits of a college diploma and the tools for obtaining one.

She spoke from Finger Lakes Community College, but her speech was shown live over the Internet at each community college.

At SUNY Adirondack, President Ronald Heacock spoke to freshmen students before Adney’s speech.

“We don’t want you coming here, enrolling and leaving. Too many students do that. Too many give up,” Heacock said.

Heacock said students who complete their associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year college have a greater chance of receiving a bachelor’s degree than students who transfer before completing the SUNY Adirondack program.

The State University of New York has ensured that students who transfer will receive credit for general education and core subject courses.

In addition, SUNY is developing a software program to allow students to look at their college credits and know exactly which ones will be accepted at another college when they transfer, Heacock said.

Barbara Green, SUNY Adirondack’s assistant dean for student success, said community college completion rates are low because students typically work full-time jobs.

Students are often the first in their families to attend college. Many students have learning, personal or financial issues, she said.

“Students here tend to be working and normally don’t finish in two years any more,” Green said.

Nearly 500 public colleges across the nation want to award an additional 3.8 million bachelor’s degrees between now and 2025.

This would result in an estimated 18.4 million diplomas awarded, up from 14.6 million. Each year, public colleges and universities award more than 1 million degrees.

The U.S. used to lead the world in the percentage of people ages 25 to 34 with a degree. Now it’s ranked 12th among 36 developed nations.

At SUNY Adirondack, the college’s percentage of graduates used to be in the low 20s. But as enrollment reached record highs over the last two years, the percentage dropped to 18.

The Board of Trustees is seeking to raise the rate to 30 percent over a three-year period, Heacock said.

“We have a lot of students who come here and they have no intention of graduating,” Heacock said.

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