Many community college students begin slipping through the cracks at school almost as soon as they first set foot on campus, a report said Nov. 12. The report, released by the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, urges colleges to be "deliberate and aggressively create opportunities to involve students" in their studies, beginning with a student's first interaction on campus. The report is based on annual student surveys conducted in the past three years. This year's survey was completed by about 310,000 students from more than 500 colleges nationwide. Students see value in advising and education planning, it suggests: 61 percent say such services are very important, and 89 percent say they are at least somewhat important. Yet just 43 percent say they met with an academic adviser to discuss goals by the end of the first four weeks of school. And 36 percent say they did not take a placement test in that time to determine which reading, writing and math courses they should be taking. The survey, based at the University of Texas in Austin, seeks to gauge the extent to which community college students are active participants in their education. It is modeled after the National Survey of Student Engagement, conducted at four-year colleges. Both are based on research showing that college students who are engaged are more likely to succeed in their studies. But, the report notes, community colleges face two key challenges right out of the gate: More than two-thirds of their students attend part time and are often also juggling jobs and families. And, about two-thirds of community college faculty are part-time instructors who typically spend limited time on campus. Survey director Kay McClenney says community colleges need to create efforts to reach students early on. Schools could require advising and placement tests, for example. Students who don't get that help "are the undirected students who are going to fall through the cracks," McClenney tells Inside Higher Ed, an online trade publication. "These are things that colleges can do something about."
Students Less Engaged at Community College