Evidence to Inform Improvement: Supporting California Community Colleges in Pandemic Recovery

A UC Davis-led research team will assess pandemic recovery efforts undertaken by the California Community Colleges (CCC). Enrollments at the 116 campuses of the CCCs have declined by 14% since 2019, leading to concerns about whether and how students may return to their intended credential paths. The CCC have engaged in a host of efforts to address declines in enrollment and to support student persistence and degree attainment; this is the first formal investigation to understand whether these recovery efforts have been effective.

The research team will conduct a survey of college leaders to uncover how supplemental federal, state, and other philanthropic dollars were spent on recovery efforts, and what form these recovery activities took. The survey instrument will inquire about supplemental financial aid, basic needs support, technology access, changes to enrollment and grading practices, alternative modes of remote instruction (i.e., synchronous/asynchronous courses), and investments in professional development for online instruction. The research team will analyze the impact of supplemental financial aid and the introduction of short course formats, as well as two additional recovery activities identified as promising during the survey analysis. The team will also engage community college leaders across California in a set of continuous improvement-focused activities that build upon the research findings.

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305X220016 to the University of California, Davis.


Lead Researchers

Michal Kurlaender is the lead researcher at Wheelhouse and the Chancellor’s Leadership Professor at the University of California, Davis School of Education. She is an expert in higher education in California and studies high school to college pathways and access to and success in higher education. She can be reached at mkurlaender@ucdavis.edu.

Scott Carrell is a professor of economics and the co-faculty director of the California Education Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. His primary area of research is in the economics of education. He can be reached at secarrell@ucdavis.edu.

John Hetts is the executive vice chancellor for the Office of Innovation, Data, Evidence and Analytics at the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. He leads the development and delivery of information technology and security services, student-centered technology-focused initiatives, and evidence-based reporting and evaluation.

Valerie Lundy-Wagner is the vice chancellor of the Digital Innovation and Infrastructure Division of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. Lundy-Wagner is a nationally recognized leader on equity in higher education, including how it connects to K-12 and workforce development.

Paco Martorell is an associate professor at the University of California, Davis. He has broad research interests in both higher education and K-12 policy. He can be reached at pmartorell@ucdavis.edu.

Olga Rodriguez is director of the PPIC Higher Education Center and a senior fellow at PPIC. She works with a team of researchers to identify programs and policies to help make the state’s higher education system more successful, equitable, and sustainable. Her research focuses on college access and success among underserved students.

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