Supports for success don’t reach most students

Community colleges are raising success rates by helping first-year students connect with professors and classmates, concludes A Matter of Degrees, which is based on surveys by the Center for Community College Student Engagement. However, many students don’t take advantage of the help that’s available unless their college requires it, as I write in U.S. News.

“Promising practices” to improve success rates include grouping students in a “learning community” that takes several courses together or a “first-year experience” program that creates a small community including faculty and staff.  Student success courses that teach time management and study skills also help students make the transition to college life.

Few students study for placement tests. As a result, 72 percent test into remedial courses. Once there, most don’t seek tutoring or extra instruction.

Advising is hit or miss. Nearly half of new students don’t seek help in choosing classes and even fewer talk to a counselor about balancing academics with work and family commitments.

“Students don’t do optional,” says Kay McClenney, director of the CCCSE. In some cases, colleges should make participation mandatory, she argues. In others, colleges can integrate “student and academic supports into classroom experiences,” such as teaching study skills or use of the library as part of academic courses. “Colleges should provide more structure, fewer options and clearer pathways for students,”  she concludes.

Brazosport College in Texas requires all new students to take a success course.

Zane State College in Ohio requires “instrusive counseling” — personal meetings, phone calls, e-mails and Facebook conacts — to keep high-risk students on track.