Academic journal article Peer Review

A Shared Vision for Student Success

Academic journal article Peer Review

A Shared Vision for Student Success

Article excerpt

Community colleges are important providers of access and opportunity for an increasing percentage of multicultural, multigenerational, low-income, and firstgeneration college students (American Association of Community Colleges 2014; Juszkiewicz 2014). These institutions serve more than half of all students enrolled in public colleges and universities and more than one-third of all students enrolled in higher education (US Department of Education 2013). The academic and economic success of this new majority of nontraditional postsecondary students, largely served by the nation's public two-year institutions, will define national well-being for decades to come (Bailey 2012).

Given this important role played by community colleges, it's unsurprising to see numerous national and regional efforts to improve community college student success emerging. The "completion agenda"-the reform movement led by state and federal policymakers designed to increase dramatically the number of students graduating from our nation's colleges and universities-continues to drive the development of new programs and initiatives. As Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, recently reminded a group of national, regional, and state leaders, we must be intentional in our efforts to support community college student success and always be guided by this question: "Completion to what end?" (personal communication, November 5, 2015). If the nation is going to improve postsecondary completion rates, there needs to be a more far-reaching exploration of the connections between high-quality learning and Americans' global future, and of the changes needed to achieve equitable access to highquality learning for the millions of students whose college journeys begin at two-year institutions.

DEFINING SHARED GOALS

There is a growing demand in the higher education community, especially from funding organizations and campus leaders, to determine how initiatives sponsored by national, regional, and statewide organizations complement and support collective action and shared goals to improve student outcomes. Efforts focused on the completion agenda have historically been siloed and disconnected. As a result, we have not reached the impact we desire. Higher education leaders must find ways to be more intentional and systematic. In 2014, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) received a grant from The Kresge Foundation to expand partnership opportunities with other national organizations seeking to improve community college student success. AAC&U s activities to strengthen partnerships with community college leaders and with organizations committed to supporting the work of community college educators included a Community College Leadership Summit, which helped kickoff AAC&U's Centennial Year activities in January 2015. The meeting of national thought leaders from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Achieving the Dream, Jobs for the Future, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, the Community College Research Center (CCRC), and AAC&U-just to name a few- along with many campus-based leaders, gathered to address challenges and opportunities for advancing community college student success.

Those conversations examined the following areas:

* How can campus leaders design guided learning pathways that clearly define expectations for students?

* How can collaborations among faculty at institutions across the country support higher levels of achievement of student learning outcomes?

* How can national, regional, state, and local partners influence transfer policies and practices that recognize the growing evidence of student swirl?

The overarching goal of the multiyear project is to identify actionable items that will further the shared goals of partner organizations, while supporting our individual, and often complementary, missions.

In one example of efforts to form concrete, long-term partnerships, Jobs for the Future created the Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success to inform and influence the next generation of policy conditions and state infrastructure that support community college efforts to transform in support of improved student success, with generous funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (http : / / www. …

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