Teachers College, Columbia University

Study Uncovers Policies and Practices at Community Colleges that Lead to Student and Institutional Success

NEW YORK, NY (June 1, 2006) — The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, the leading research institution on two-year colleges, issued a new report on effective policies and practices that enable community college students to succeed in college. The report, What Community College Policies and Practices Are Effective in Promoting Student Success? A Study of High-and Low-Impact Institutions is based on a comparison of Florida community colleges that CCRC’s analysis shows have a higher impact on student academic success with colleges that have a lower impact.

“Community colleges continue to be the main portal through which low-income and minority students gain access to higher education. Determining what these institutions can do to enhance the success of the students they serve is critically important,” said Thomas R. Bailey, director of CCRC.

The study finds that colleges that focus on student retention and completion rather than just enrollment numbers and systematically align programs and services to support student outcomes are more effective in helping students graduate or transfer to baccalaureate programs. “This study shows that how colleges manage academic programs and support services matters for student success,” said Davis Jenkins, CCRC senior research associate and director of the study. “Simply caring about students is not enough.” Among the specific practices of effective colleges identified by the study are close collaboration between faculty and student services staff, extensive experimentation with ways to improve student success, and use of data on students to improve programs and services.

The study also finds that minority students who attend colleges that have support programs and services targeted to their needs do better than those who attend colleges without specialized supports for minority students. “Some of the colleges we visited are reluctant to provide special programs for particular groups of students,” said Dr. Jenkins. “ This study finds that minority students do not benefit as much from a ‘colorblind’ approach.”

The report was conducted through a partnership with the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Education and funded by Lumina Foundation for Education as part of the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count initiative. Achieving the Dream is a national effort to increase the success of community college students, particularly those in groups that have been underserved in higher education.