Teachers College, Columbia University

"They Never Told Me What to Expect, So I Didn't Know What to Do": Defining and Clarifying the Role of a Community College Student

By Melinda Mechur Karp & Rachel Hare Bork

Low college success rates are typically attributed to students' lack of academic preparation for college and their subsequent need for developmental or remedial instruction, but research suggests that even many students who are deemed "college-ready" still do not earn a postsecondary credential.

This paper, building on previous work, argues that community college success is dependent not only on academic preparation but also on a host of non-academic skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are often left unspoken. Drawing from extensive interviews with students, faculty, and staff at three community colleges, this paper aims to clarify the role of community college student and the behaviors that must be enacted for students to be successful.

Using data from interviews at the study sites, the authors provide a concrete, actionable description of the community college student role. They also present a framework that practitioners can use to help students learn how to be successful community college students.

A version of this paper appears in the Teachers College Record, vol. 116, no. 5.

Associated Project(s)

Student Success Courses