Improving Student Attainment in Community Colleges: Institutional Characteristics and Policies

Bailey, Thomas R.; Alfonso, Mariana; Calcagno, Juan Carlos; Jenkins, Paul Davis; Kienzl, Gregory S.; Leinbach, D. Timothy

Community colleges are a crucial point of access to higher education for low-income, minority, and other underserved students. Indeed, these groups are overrepresented (with respect to their share of undergraduate enrollment) in two-year and less-than-two-year postsecondary institutions. The community college access mission is built on low tuition, convenient location, flexible scheduling, an open-door admissions policy, and programs and services designed to support students who may have various socio-economic and academic barriers inhibiting postsecondary success. If community colleges—or similar institutions—were not available, many of these students would not have an opportunity to attend higher education. While access to community colleges is an important first step for a wide variety of students, they must also be successful after they have enrolled. Unfortunately, many students never finish a degree. For example, only 36 percent of students who enrolled in a community college as their first postsecondary enrollment in the 1995-96 school year had completed a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree within six years. Low-income, minority, and first-generation college students all have even lower six-year completion rates. Although many students can benefit from a community college education even if they do not complete a degree or certificate, community college faculty and administrators would all like to see completion rates rise. This report is part of a broad initiative funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education. The initiative, Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, will initially work with 27 community colleges in five states to help them increase retention, completion, and success for low-income students, students of color, first-generation college students, and other underserved groups.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
April 4, 2014