President Obama highlighted the important role community colleges play in today’s workforce in his recent State of the Union address
, but to achieve the lofty goals set by the President, colleges need tools in place to ensure students entering their doors can succeed. A recent report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement discovered that most schools know what is needed, but not all have successfully implemented those tools on a broad enough scale to help the majority of their students. Check out what community colleges nationwide are striving to offer their students now, and what they can add to give their students even better odds of success.
A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success
The CCCSE report, titled, “A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success,” consolidates four different surveys into a single, comprehensive report. According to a report at the University of Texas website
, the report includes data from the Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE), the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), and the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (CCFSSE). The report also included preliminary findings from the Community College Institutional Survey (CCIS).
The report compiled information from 75,000 entering students and 440,000 experienced students throughout 2011. Approximately 35,000 faculty members also provided data for the report, and information was collected from a total of 228 community colleges. The data was compiled and analyzed by CCCSE, where it was consolidated into the single “Matter of Degrees” report that provides a relatively complete picture of how students fare at community colleges nationwide.
Factors Affecting Completion Rates
According to Education Week
, the report by CCCSE shows that while 79 percent of students entering community college say they want to earn an associate degree
, only 45 percent meet that goal within six years. The report cites a number of reasons why students do not succeed in meeting their goals, including:
· Working full-time while attending school
· Lacking sufficient finances to finish the program
It is interesting to note that in the report, faculty at community colleges ranked these reasons as a much higher factor in high incompletion rates than students did. For example, 81 percent of college faculty members surveyed thought full-time work would impede a student from completing their education. By the same token, only 38 percent of students surveyed thought a full-time job was a significant factor.
Need for Improvement
When it comes to preparing students for the rigors of higher education, the CCCSE report shows that colleges are woefully lacking, even though most have a good idea of what needs to be done to ensure students are ready for college. According to Community College Week Blog
, 74 percent of the students surveyed stated they were required to take a placement test before enrolling in community college. However, only 28 percent said they used resources supplied by the college to prepare for those placement tests
Out of the colleges surveyed for the CCCSE report, 44 percent stated they offered some sort of test preparation to students getting ready to enter the school. Unfortunately, a very small percentage – only 13 percent – make such test preparation mandatory. Placement examinations help to identify students who might need developmental courses prior to enrolling in college-level classes. When students are placed into the correct course level right from the beginning of their community college experience are much more likely to persevere to their associate degree.
“These colleges have to do better and they clearly can,” Kay M. McClenney, director of CCCSE, told Community College Week Blog. “To make needed progress, colleges must focus their efforts on those educational practices that produce the greatest positive impact for the largest possible number of students.”
13 Principles for Success
The CCCSE website
states that the report offers 13 promising practices community colleges can implement to increase the odds of student success. Those 13 principles are broken down into three basic categories:
· Planning for Success
· Initiating Success
· Sustaining Success
Under the “Planning for Success” umbrella, CCCSE looked at assessment and placement, orientation, academic goal setting and registration. “Initiating Success” includes accelerated developmental education, a student success course, the first-year experience
and establishing a positive learning community. In the “Sustaining Success” category comes important practices like class attendance, availability of experiential learning, intervention, tutoring
and supplemental instruction.
While some colleges have implemented some of these practices, few have succeeded in bringing all of these components to the college experience. In addition, many schools that are trying to bring these practices into play have failed to make them available to their full campus of students.
“Community colleges across the country have created innovative, data-informed programs that are models for educating underprepared students, engaging traditionally underserved students, and helping students from all backgrounds succeed,” the report
states. “However, because most of these programs have limited scope, the field now has pockets of success rather than widespread improvement. Turning these many small accomplishments into broad achievement - and improved completion rates – depends on bringing effective programs to scale.”
Within the summary of the report, community colleges can find very specific areas to focus if they want to raise their success rates across their campuses. Community college students require a strong start and clear pathways to success. Students need a high bar set for them and integrative support to help them reach that bar. Assistance needs to be available campus-wide to ensure every student that enters a community college can leave with the education they originally desired.