Academic journal article Community College Review

Student Success Courses in the Community College: An Exploratory Study of Student Perspectives

Academic journal article Community College Review

Student Success Courses in the Community College: An Exploratory Study of Student Perspectives

Article excerpt

This study examines student success courses in two urban community colleges. Through analysis of student interview data, we find that such courses are an essential resource for students, in large part because the various benefits reinforce one another and magnify their influence. These benefits include learning about the college, classes, and study skills. In addition, students build important relationships with professors and peers.

Keywords: student services; student orientation; student retention; student achievement; student-faculty relationship

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In keeping with their mission to help students from all backgrounds attain a college education, community colleges have implemented an array of student support services. One of these, the student success course (also called college 101, introduction to college, student orientation, or freshman experience), aims to help new college students learn about the institution and be successful there. The study described in this article used student interview data to examine these courses, finding that they helped students gain important knowledge and build critical relationships.

Background

The mission of community colleges is to provide access to a postsecondary credential for students who may not otherwise be able to attend college. Because of their convenient location, open access, and low cost, community colleges tend to enroll students who are more academically, economically, and socially disadvantaged than do other postsecondary institutions. For example, nearly 30% of community college students are Black or Hispanic as compared to 20% of students enrolled in 4-year public and private postsecondary institutions (Horn & Nevill, 2006). Approximately one fourth of community college students come from families earning 125% or less of the federal poverty level as compared to one fifth of 4-year college students (Horn & Nevill, 2006). Community college students face a variety of barriers to degree completion including the need to work, family obligations, and low levels of academic preparation. Entering freshman at community colleges are more likely to need at least one remedial course than are their peers at 4-year colleges, and they are more likely to need to spend a longer period of time taking such courses (Wirt et al., 2004).

Student success at these institutions remains low. Six years after their initial enrollment in 1995-96, 45% of first-time college students at community colleges had transferred to a 4-year institution or earned a certificate or degree (Bailey, Jenkins, & Leinbach, 2005). Although 8% of students were still enrolled, 47% had left school without earning a credential. These statistics undoubtedly include some students who enter the community college with goals other than degree attainment or transfer, but it is nonetheless clear that many community college students do not persist toward an educational credential despite the institution's best efforts.

To help students overcome barriers to success and improve completion rates, community colleges have implemented a variety of student support services. These services take many forms and address a variety of student needs. They may include, among other things, guidance and counseling focused on academics or careers, academic supports such as tutoring, or personal assistance such as child care (Purnell & Blank, 2004).

Offering an array of services enables community colleges to meet the varied needs of their students. The prevailing philosophy is that such services can increase student success and persistence to a degree by providing them with additional resources and opportunities that help them become integrated into the college environment (Bailey & Alfonso, 2005). In addition, providing student services can be seen as compensatory, helping disadvantaged students overcome their potential lack of information, cultural capital, or academic preparedness. …

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