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Report: Many Community Colleges Bypass Best Practices for Student Success

Student success courses, campus orientation, early academic planning, and clear attendance policies can help students make a smooth transition to community college and increase chances of completion. Yet, a new report shows many schools have not adopted these student-engagement practices or required students to participate.

Survey results released Thursday by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin outline several promising practices to improve degree completion at the country's public two-year institutions, if only schools would adopt the recommendations.

"The field has known for more than a decade the importance of student engagement. Simply stated, engagement matters—and more engagement matters more," said Kay McClenney, the director of the center in a press release. "These results underscore the importance of community college efforts to make student engagement inescapable. Requiring students to take part in activities likely to enhance their success is a step community colleges can readily take. They just need to decide to do it."

Recognizing that community colleges have to target limited resources in the most effective way, the report lists 13 educational policies and practices that have been identified as having high impact on student engagement in community colleges.

"A Matter of Degrees: Engaging Practices, Engaging Students," describes how students' participation in particular practices affects their level of engagement in college and how widespread the efforts are on campuses.

For example, just 46 percent of students surveyed in the report developed an academic plan during their first term, even though about 66 percent of colleges have a process for helping entering students set academic goals in their first semester. While 97 percent of colleges offer some form of orientation, only 60 percent of students participate.

For students in developmental or remedial programs at community colleges, fast-track programs can help them quickly move through to college-level work and 70 percent of colleges offer such programs. Yet, the report shows that less than 30 percent of developmental students at community colleges participate in accelerated courses.

The report includes examples of institutions, such as the Houston Community College System, Tallahassee Community College in Florida, and Community College of Baltimore County, where these practices have successfully been put in place to notably improve student outcomes.

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