CCRC studies community colleges because they have the potential to dramatically improve educational equity and social mobility in the United States. Community colleges are for everyone, at any time of life: high school students exploring their interests and getting a head start on a degree; college students seeking the most affordable route to a bachelor’s degree; career-changers looking to acquire new skills; lifelong learners exploring interests and making new connections. Community colleges make it their mission to open up opportunities for students from traditionally underserved groups—including racially minoritized, low-income, immigrant, and first-generation students. But while community colleges play an essential role in higher education and workforce development, they operate with far fewer resources than their four-year counterparts, and completion rates for their degree-seeking students tend to be lower.
We believe that all students can succeed in the right environment and with the right supports. To that end, CCRC partners with community colleges across the country to investigate the roots of educational inequity and identify promising approaches to institutional improvement. Our goal is to provide every college leader, educator, and policymaker with the evidence they need to make decisions that promote student success. By conducting high-quality research, we aim to help community colleges enrich the lives of every student who passes through their doors, and in doing so, to promote a more just higher education system and a more just society.
CCRC is an independent research organization funded entirely by grants from foundations, government agencies, and other organizations.
CCRC has been a leader in the field of community college research and reform for over 25 years. Our work provides a foundation for innovations in policy and practice that help give every community college student the best chance of success.
We use scientific methods to produce accurate and reliable information on community college programs and the students they serve. Our researchers take a broad interdisciplinary approach that combines quantitative and qualitative analysis.
Our studies are designed to yield evidence that practitioners and policymakers can use to improve students’ experiences and outcomes.
Our work is fundamentally driven by the idea that research can improve outcomes for community colleges and their students. Our optimism is bolstered by the deep dedication we observe among community college faculty and staff.
Community colleges are crucial sites for improving educational equity. We aim to identify policies and practices that enable institutions to counteract social disparities by race and class and promote the success of students from all underserved populations.
We partner with community colleges, states, federal agencies, philanthropies, and other organizations to design studies and disseminate lessons from research. Our collaborative approach enables us to address pressing issues in the field and offer recommendations that are attuned to the realities on the ground.
In 1996, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation invited Thomas Bailey, director of the Institute on Education and the Economy at Teachers College, Columbia University, to submit a proposal to form a community college research center. At the time, little was known about two-year public colleges despite the fact that they enrolled nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates. In the years since, CCRC’s research on community colleges has served to generate and inform a renewed interest in these essential higher education institutions.
In 2018, Thomas W. Brock became the second director of CCRC, leading the center as it continues to make vital contributions to higher education research, policy, and practice.
CCRC's 2020–22 biennial report showcases the center's work over the past year as community colleges struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges and previews the compelling work we have planned to help community colleges move forward.
CCRC-Led Research Partnerships
The Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges Network, or ARCC Network, is studying strategies that community colleges are using to combat enrollment drops, learning loss, and other negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. CCRC, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research are leading the network and conducting national research on enrollment and transfer trends, pandemic recovery strategies, and unmet needs. The network includes six independent research teams investigating recovery efforts such as enhanced financial aid, innovative workforce programs, improved online and hybrid education, and new course formats.
The Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) conducts research to document current practices in developmental English and math education, and to rigorously assess the effects of innovative assessment and instructional practices on student success. CAPR includes researchers from CCRC; MDRC; Queens College, City University of New York; Stanford University; the University of California at Davis; and Vanderbilt University. The center is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, with additional funding from the Education Commission of the States, Ascendium Education Group, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Postsecondary Teaching with Technology Collaborative works with students, faculty, technology developers, and other researchers to improve our knowledge of how college and university instructors can effectively use technology to help students develop self-directed learning skills in online courses. The collaborative is led by CCRC and SRI Education in partnership with Achieving the Dream and nine broad-access public colleges and universities across the United States. It is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.