Do Student Success Courses Actually Help Community College Students Succeed?
Many first-time college students arrive on campus unprepared to succeed in college. This is especially the case at community colleges, which pursue an “open door” mission of serving all students, regardless of prior educational background. According to a survey of degree-granting institutions by the National Center for Education Statistics (2003), 42 percent of entering first-time students at public two-year colleges in fall 2000 took at least one remedial course (or one “developmental” course; we use these terms interchangeably), compared to 20 percent of entering students at public four-year institutions. Among recent high school graduates who entered higher education through community colleges in the mid-1990s, over 60 percent took at least one remedial course (authors’ calculations based on the National Education Longitudinal Survey of 1988 [NELS: 88]). Underpreparation is typically viewed in terms of deficiencies in students’ basic academic skills, specifically in those skills integral to the reading, writing, and mathematics subject areas. Community college educators maintain, however, that many entering students are also unprepared in other important ways. It is widely believed that many students have poor study habits and lack clear goals for college and careers. Some experts contend that helping students address these non-academic deficiencies is just as important as helping them acquire basic academic skills through remedial classes, which typically do not address issues such as study skills, goal setting, and the like (Boylan, 2002;Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991).
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