Addressing Persistence of Community College Students to Increase Transfer and Graduation Rates

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Johns Hopkins University
Community college students are often identified by the support and resources that they lack (i.e., academic preparation for college, parental support at home, and financial resources). Faculty acting as institutional agents have been reported to provide emotional and practical curricular support to help students navigate the complexities of transfer. This mixed-methods study of first-time-in-college business students at a suburban community college assessed whether connecting students with full-time faculty institutional agents and employing the LMS as an information repository with program pathways, transfer institution requirements, and faculty contacts, would affect persistence and progress toward transfer and degree completion. Faculty were trained in the role of an institutional agent and then tracked their meetings with students. Fall-to-spring persistence, completion of developmental education, course selection based on program pathways, GPA, and achievement of credit milestones were compared for an active treatment cohort to the previous year’s treatment-naïve cohort. The faculty participants leveraged the relationships they developed with students based on coursework and engaged in advising conversations about transfer and career goals. However, first year students did not frequently avail themselves of meetings with faculty participants. The routine use of the LMS offers promising opportunities to support advising efforts. Although there was no association between cohort and fall-to-spring persistence, there was a positive association between cohort and developmental education completion. There was a trend toward following program pathways by taking the introductory business and economics courses in the first year and an association between the treatment cohort and delaying the accounting course. Although the chi-square test showed no association between cohort and earning 30 total credits or 30 college-level credits, there were trends in favor of the active treatment group. The one-tailed t-test indicated a significant difference between groups in favor of the treatment group for mean number of total credits completed and college-only credits completed. More study is necessary to determine how students can be encouraged to develop relationships with faculty from their first semester at community college. Following the active treatment cohort will reveal if their first year persistence yields higher rates of transfer and graduation. Dissertation Adviser: Dr. Stephen Pape  
community college persistence