A Matter of Degrees: High-Impact Practices for Community College Student Engagement

By Betsy Prueter

A new report based on four national surveys from the Center for Community College Student Engagement finds that while community colleges have been offering evidence-based student engagement strategies (e.g., academic goal-setting, student orientation, tutoring) to improve student academic performance and graduation rates, students are not participating in these programs in high numbers. The report suggests that the intensity, quality (of the practice and of the implementation), and scale all make a notable difference in participation and in outcomes.

Among the report’s findings:

  • The report looks at 13 student engagement strategies: academic goal setting and planning, student orientation, accelerated or fast-track developmental education, first-year experience, student success courses, learning communities, experiential learning beyond the classroom, tutoring, supplemental instruction, assessment and placement, registration before classes begin, class attendance, and alert and intervention.
  • Most strategies revealed a gap between what was offered to students and the percentage of students who took advantage of them.
    • 66% of colleges have a process in place for helping students set academic goals during their first term, yet less than half of students surveyed actually developed an academic plan.
    • Close to 70% of colleges implemented an accelerated course or fast-track program in developmental/remedial education, but less than one-third of students surveyed took advantage of the program.
    • 61% of colleges offered first-year experience programs, yet less than 30% of students surveyed participated in a first-year experience program.
    • 84% of two-year college offer student success courses to help new students navigate college, yet only 20% of surveyed students took a success course during their first term.
    • 67% of colleges required experiential learning programs for vocational and technical students and nearly 30% require them for non-vocational/technical students, but fewer than 20% of students surveyed participated in such a program.
    • 99% of colleges offered tutoring, but less than 27% took advantage of it.
    • More than 60% of colleges offered supplemental instruction, though less than 20% of surveyed students participated.
    • 80% of colleges have implemented an intervention process, yet less than 30% of surveyed students who identified themselves as “academically struggling” reported any outreach on the part of the college.