Giving Compass’ Take:
• To provide a more supportive environment, community colleges are pivoting toward guided pathways, providing wraparound services, making harder budget choices, and re-enrolling students who have dropped out.
• What resources would be vital for community colleges to stay afloat?
• Read about what makes an effective community college.
Community colleges face mounting challenges. Since the Great Recession, states have pulled back their support, hurting the budgets of many two-year institutions. At the same time, a strong job market has pulled prospective students directly into the workforce, causing enrollments to drop nationwide.
Nonetheless, community colleges have a mission to provide learners with a low-cost, high-quality education, propelling them either to a four-year institution or helping them land a better job.
Throughout the conference, community college leaders shared how their institutions are working with fewer resources to fulfill their missions and reinvent the struggling sector. Here’s what we learned about how two-year institutions are improving student outcomes and their own bottom lines.
Pivoting toward guided pathways:
The concept of guided pathways is gaining traction as a way to help get students across the finish line at community colleges, where six-year graduation rates hover around 26%. The idea behind the guided pathways model is simple: Students are more likely to complete a credential or transfer to a four-year institution if they have a clear roadmap of what courses they need to take, as well as supports along the way to make sure they stick to their plan.
Providing more wraparound services:
Colleges are recognizing the supports they provide for students need to extend beyond academic help. Often, a students’ education can be upended by experiencing food and housing insecurity or an unexpected expense, such as a car repair.
Making hard budget choices:
Common initiatives underway at community colleges — such as overhauling an advising system or bolstering student support services — generally don’t come cheap. But most two-year institutions have found themselves short on resources after years of enrollment declines and cuts in public support.
Re-enrolling students who dropped out:
As colleges feel the pain of years-long enrollment declines, more are looking to tap into growing markets such as adult learners. But some are also looking at bringing back the students who stopped attending.
Read the full article about community colleges by Natalie Schwartz at Education Dive.
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