Teachers College, Columbia University

Paths to Persistence: An Analysis of Research on Program Effectiveness at Community Colleges

By Thomas Bailey & Mariana Alfonso
Paths to Persistence: An Analysis of Research on Program Effectiveness at Community Colleges

During the last decade, educators and policymakers have increased their focus on the success of students once they enter community college. As a result, accreditation agencies and state regulators are increasingly scrutinizing measures of student outcomes, such as persistence and completion rates.

At the same time, national initiatives by foundations and the U.S. Department of Education are focused on developing policy and institutional practices that will improve success rates for community college students. This report has been written as part of the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count initiative, which is based on the premise that research about and at community colleges must play a central role in any strategy to increase student success.

This report presents a critical analysis of the state of the research on the effectiveness of four types of practices in increasing persistence and completion at community colleges: (1) advising, counseling, mentoring and orientation programs; (2) learning communities; (3) developmental education and other services for academically underprepared students; and (4) college-wide reform.

The authors use this analysis to draw lessons about effective institutional practices, identify promising areas for future research, evaluate the state of program-effectiveness research at community colleges, and make recommendations for improving related research.