Toward a New Understanding of Non-Academic Student Support: Four Mechanisms Encouraging Positive Student Outcomes in the Community College
Despite their best efforts, community colleges continue to see low rates of student persistence and degree attainment, particularly among academically vulnerable students. While it is likely that academic interventions need to be reformed to increase their efficacy, another partial explanation for these low success rates is that students have other needs that are not being met. This Brief, based on a longer paper, examines programs and practices that appear to address these needs by providing non-academic support in order to encourage student success. A review of the literature on non-academic support yields evidence of four mechanisms by which such supports can improve student outcomes: (1) creating social relationships, (2) clarifying aspirations and enhancing commitment, (3) developing college know-how, and (4) addressing conflicting demands of work, family and college. Identifying these mechanisms allows for a deeper understanding of both the functioning of promising interventions and the conditions that may lead students to become integrated into college life. Notably, each of these mechanisms can occur within a variety of programs, structures, or even informal interactions. The Brief concludes by discussing avenues for further research and immediate implications for community colleges.
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