Community-College Students’ Engagement Levels Rise

Report: “Engagement Rising: A Decade of CCSSE Data Shows Improvements Across the Board”

Organization: Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin

Summary: Today’s community college-students are more likely to come to class prepared, participate in class presentations, and discuss career plans with their instructors and advisers, according to a report that compares the engagement levels of nearly two million students at 853 colleges in 2004 and 2014.

The report measures student engagement by looking at several broad categories: active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for students. It breaks down responses among full-time and part-time students, and developmental (those needing at least one remedial class) and college-level students.

Comparing responses from 2004 and 2014, the researchers found that:

  • The share of part-time students who reported making at least one class presentation rose from 60 to 67 percent, and the proportion of full-time students who said they always came to class prepared rose from 21 percent to 31 percent.
  • The proportion of full-time students who said they never skipped class jumped from 38 percent to 50 percent.
  • Both developmental and college-level students are discussing career plans with instructors and advisers more frequently than they did a decade ago. Both of those groups also joined instructors in extracurricular activities more often.

The center’s director, Evelyn N. Waiwaiole, says colleges are benefiting from an outpouring of support and data from groups dedicated to improving success rates at community colleges.

“Student demographics have remained relatively stable during this time period, so the rise in engagement is not likely the result of who is attending college,” the report says, “but instead the result of intentional change in policy and practice at colleges across the country.”

Bottom Line: At a time when community colleges are facing heightened expectations and intense scrutiny over their completion rates, improvements in student engagement would be expected to lead to higher completion rates.

It’s not clear that’s happening, but researchers hope the data provided by the student-engagement center and other national groups will help colleges create environments where more students can succeed.

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