Biennial Report

Welcome to CCRC's 2020–2022 Biennial Report! Community colleges are now at the center of a national conversation on how to make college more accessible, affordable, and effective for students from all backgrounds. Helping community college students succeed will be instrumental in helping our nation recover, heal, and grow. In the pages of this biennial report, we highlight some of the issues these students face and how CCRC is addressing them. Watch the video below for an introduction by CCRC Director Tom Brock.

Who are community college students?

are Black or Hispanic
are financially independent
transfer to a four-year institution within six years
earn a credential within six years
Five students outside on a sunny day, smiling.
Two students posing for a photo on graduation day.
Three students working together at the library.
Four students posing for a photo on campus.

Voices from the Field

Michael Baston
Michael Baston
Laura Rittner
Laura Rittner
Yolanda Watson Spiva
Yolanda Watson Spiva
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
Eloy Ortiz Oakley

Voices from the Field

Michael Baston
Michael Baston
Laura Rittner
Laura Rittner
Yolanda Watson Spiva
Yolanda Watson Spiva
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
Eloy Ortiz Oakley

CCRC’s Summer Institute for Rural Colleges

At CCRC’s summer institute, Guided Pathways at Rural Colleges: Using Data to Launch Large-Scale Reform, 21 college teams joined CCRC researchers and other experts to kickstart their guided pathways planning. Over two-week virtual sessions in June and July 2021, the colleges examined data on their students’ program choices, reimagined student onboarding, and honed a message to take back to their campuses about why they should engage in this work. A second institute is taking place in summer 2022.

We learned so much from these colleges about the challenges facing rural and rural-serving institutions as well as the strengths of these institutions and the opportunities for reimagining the student experience.

Hana Lahr
CCRC Senior Research Associate and Director of Applied Learning

Responding to the Pandemic

The pandemic reached into every corner of community colleges. It made it all but impossible for students to take in-person placement tests. It accelerated workplace changes and shifted employers’ skill demands for community college graduates. And it forced advisors to support the most vulnerable learners through a screen.

Likewise, COVID-19 left no CCRC research area untouched and made our mission to empower practitioners and leaders with actionable information all the more urgent. Beginning in the spring of 2020, researchers adapted their work to support the field through the crisis, asking new questions, taking stock of pandemic-era strategies, and compiling valuable resources. The CCRC blog became a hub for COVID-related ideas, documenting the field’s evolution in practice and contextualizing emerging trends.

Students wearing masks on campus.

Student Responses to Pandemic

What Does COVID-19 Mean for Community College Enrollment?

Economic crises tend to be good for community college enrollments, as displaced workers turn to open-access institutions to reskill and improve their prospects on the job market. But COVID-19 did not produce a typical downturn. COVID-19 disproportionately affected the economic and physical health of the low-income, non-White neighborhoods that many community college students call home. As a result, enrollment tumbled by 9.5%—or 476,000 students—from spring 2020 to spring 2021. CCRC Director Thomas Brock and Research Affiliate Clive Belfield examined U.S. Census Bureau survey data to try to understand why enrollments were down, noting that more than half of prospective community college students cancelled their plans altogether, switched programs, or enrolled in fewer courses than they had initially planned to.

Shaping the Future of Developmental Education

Since its launch in 2014, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) has conducted groundbreaking work to push developmental education reform forward at community colleges. The center, which CCRC co-leads with MDRC, has added to the overall consensus that the goal of developmental reforms should be to put more students into college-level courses and invest in their success in those courses.

“We have a much stronger understanding of what’s more effective than traditional prerequisite developmental courses,” said Nikki Edgecombe, CAPR’s principal investigator. “We have a lot of new knowledge and a lot of proof points nationally around developmental education reform.”

When CAPR’s initial five-year grant ended, IES and private foundations followed up with additional funding to explore longer-term outcomes and explore new areas of research.

“We’re at a really important inflection point,” Edgecombe said. “We have a lot to learn about how we can tailor, direct, or shape existing reforms to support different student populations. We have a lot to learn about how to ensure access to reform is equitable. And we have a lot to learn around the ways in which institutions can better support those charged with implementing this work, whether they’re in the advising office or the classroom.”

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CAPR’s November 2019 conference in New York City brought together more than 300 policymakers, practitioners, students, and researchers to discuss the future of developmental education and college readiness. Attendees discussed CAPR research findings, improving equity, the influence of state policy on practice, effective teaching and learning, and more.

A classroom full of students raising their hands.

Our Internal Efforts to Dismantle Systemic Injustice

In the past few years, CCRC has looked inward and taken steps to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization. We are working with a consultant to improve staff diversity through our hiring practices, ensure that our compensation and promotion processes are equitable, and make our workplace more inclusive. CCRC staff members also began implementing a framework that promotes an equity lens at each stage of the research process, from project conception and data collection to analysis, writing, and dissemination.

CCRC Celebrates 25 Years

When Thomas Bailey founded CCRC in 1996, few researchers were studying community colleges, and data on them was limited. Today, community colleges are central to conversations about higher education and a thriving economy. For the last 25 years, CCRC research has revealed insights into how community colleges can restructure and adapt to serve their students better.

Group of happy students walking outside on campus.

Our Contributions to Guided Pathways Reform

The book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges helped catalyze the widespread adoption of guided pathways reforms at community colleges. Around 400 of the country’s 1,000 community colleges are part of formal state or national efforts to support redesign of their institutions on the guided pathways model, with the goal of helping all students explore, choose, plan, and complete programs aligned with their career and education goals efficiently and affordably.

Community colleges were originally designed to maximize college access by offering a wide variety of courses to suit different interests and needs. But the focus has shifted in recent years to helping students stay in school and complete programs that lead to good jobs or transfer in high-opportunity fields. Guided pathways helps dismantle obstacles to earning valuable certificates and degrees, such as unclear paths and limited support for students to reach their goals. Through several major research studies focused on more than 120 colleges nationally, CCRC is investigating how colleges can effectively implement guided pathways, improve equity, address costs, and measure the impacts of the reforms on student success.

CCRC Quick Stats | 2020–21

Press mentions
Blog posts

Financial Snapshot | Fiscal Year 2020-21

Cumulative total of active grants
Annual budget

Revenue by Source

Expenditures by Research Area

CCRC Funders | 2020-21

Achieving the Dream
American Association of Community Colleges
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Arnold Ventures
Ascendium Education Group
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Calbright College
Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin
College Futures Foundation
ECMC Foundation
Education Commission of the States
Institute for Evidence-Based Change
Jobs for the Future
The Joyce Foundation
J-PAL North America
JPMorgan Chase Foundation

The Kresge Foundation
Lumina Foundation
NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
National Center for Inquiry & Improvement
National Science Foundation
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
The Research Foundation for the State University of New York
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Schmidt Futures
SRI International
Strong Start to Finish
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
William T. Grant Foundation