Highlights: Predictors of Degree Outcomes for Community College Students
A study published in the end-of-year 2010 issue of the Journal of Higher Education entitled “Predictors of Long-Term Enrollment and Degree Outcomes for Community College Students: Integrating Academic, Psychosocial, Socio-demographic, and Situational Factors” has a few points to add to the conversation about increasing student success at community colleges. However, most of it reads like most other tragic research – what goes out must come in.
Typical findings: Students who had higher expectations, were more prepared (came in with better GPAs and test scores) and more motivated were more likely to complete. White, female, full-time, and those with college-educated parents were more likely to succeed along the way, whether that be completing the two year degree or transferring to a four-year degree program. High levels of social activity were related to negative outcomes (a finding we could debate, depending on the kind and discipline of social activity).
Unique findings: Students with higher degrees of academic self-confidence were less likely to complete, attributed to reluctance to ask for help. Students who live further away were less likely to drop out, I suppose because they know it would be inconvenient to re-enroll? What could we learn from this?
This kind of ethnographic research (following students along their pathways for five years and pulling out trends), while helpful, does little to expose what innovations could be made to improve the circumstances of students found to be in the, let’s say, groups with attributes correlating to unfortunate tendencies. That’s not to criticize the study, it did what it was aiming to do. I just hope the smart researchers will follow on with ways to improve students in the unfortunate circumstances. Simply being more selective at the beginning is not an option for most community colleges.