Community colleges are dealing with,
and often leading, a historical shift from
a 100-year focus on access to a new
emphasis on access and student success. The impetus for this work comes
from many directions—the president of
the United States and the secretary of
education, at least 30 governors, other
state policymakers, the philanthropic
community, and the community college
field itself. For all of these leaders, there
looms a compelling reality: In terms
of educational attainment, America is
losing ground relative to many other
countries, putting the economy and
potentially our democracy at risk—not
to mention the futures of millions of
citizens and their families.
Given these conditions, it’s a good
bet that most community colleges
are seeking ways to improve student
outcomes—particularly college completion—even as they also contend with
high enrollment numbers and shrinking financial support. This may be the
challenge of the decade: how to fundamentally redesign students’ educational
experiences, integrating evidence-based
practices and implementing them at scale,
within current resources.
From abolishing late registration to
Surveys About Student Success and Engagement
overhauling developmental education to
implementing student success, learning
communities, and redesigned student
pathways, many colleges are executing
ideas that range from solid common
sense to real innovation. (For more on
the promising practices explored in this
initiative, see the sidebar on page 42.)
But innovation alone isn’t enough. Strat-
egies need to be informed by evidence
that our chosen practices help students
engage in college, learn at higher levels,
persist in their studies, and, ultimately,
attain college credentials. Significantly
moving the needle on student success
requires that colleges strategically focus
their efforts on educational practices
that produce a measurable positive
impact for a large number of students.
Within an environment of continuing
fiscal constraint, college leaders, faculty,
and staff face hard choices. To do more
of what works for students, what must
we stop doing? Where must colleges
focus their activities and resources?
And how do they get there?
In an effort to help faculty, staff, and
administrators get their arms around
these and other questions, the Texas-
based Center for Community College
Student Engagement has launched a
large-scale, multiyear effort drawing
on data from students, faculty, and col-
leges. Seeking to identify and promote
high-impact practices in community
colleges, the High-Impact Practices Ini-
tiative focuses on what the center ini-
tially is calling “promising practices”—
specifically, these are educational
practices for which there is emerging
evidence of impact on student engage-
ment and success. Sources of evidence
for identifying promising practices
include research from a variety of
university-based and nonprofit
PERCENTAGE OF INCOMING STUDENTS
WHO SAY THEY ARE UNAWARE OF
ORIENTATION ACTIVITIES AT THEIR COLLEGE.
SENSE is administered during weeks four and five of the fall
academic term in classes most likely to enroll first-time students.
SENSE focuses on students’ experiences from the time of their
decision to attend their college through the end of the first three
weeks of the fall term. The survey collects data on practices that
are most likely to strengthen early student engagement. Entering
students are those who indicate that it is their first time at the
college where the survey is administered.
CCFSSE is administered in conjunction with CCSSE to all
faculty teaching credit courses in the academic term during
which the college is participating in the student survey.
The faculty survey reports on instructors’ perceptions about
student experiences as well as data about their teaching
practices and use of professional time.
CCSSE, administered in the spring, surveys credit students
and gathers information about their overall college experience.
It focuses on educational practices and student behaviors
associated with higher levels of learning, persistence, and
CCIS, the center’s newest instrument, was developed as part of
the center’s initiative on identifying and promoting high-impact
educational practices in community colleges. CCIS collects
information about whether and how colleges implement a variety
of promising practices.