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Students Say They Want Closer Connections with College

Students want to be more connected to their colleges — from the moment they set foot on campus through the time they graduate.

This was a common theme in focus group discussions with current and former community college students included in a new report, Connection by Design, released Friday. The information was gathered this past spring by staff from the San Francisco-based nonprofit WestEd, and Public Agenda, the public opinion organization headquartered in New York.

This report is the second of two aimed at helping colleges improve efforts to support student learning and success. The first report, released in July, found many students were struggling to keep up with their coursework and expressed a need for more guidance. (Click here for complete report.)

The students included in the report said they wanted colleges to be more deliberate engaging them in classes and campus services. Some community colleges are doing this by requiring students to participate in orientation or student success course.

Given their busy schedules, many students in the focus groups expressed concern about these programs becoming mandatory. If they have to attend, students want them to be high quality, engaging, and clearly relevant to their goals, according to the report.

In the discussions, students spoke like consumers — saying they wanted more individualized help, if not in-person through personal emails or texts. Students felt most college websites fall short and would welcome more interactive features. Too often students said in making college-related decisions, they don't know what questions to ask until it is too late.

Students want schools to better anticipate their needs and provide them with clear information, especially if they are at risk of dropping out and could benefit from extra services. And supports should be offered beyond the freshman year, many in the focus groups felt.

The reports are part of the Completion by Design initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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