As we approach AACC’s 95th Annual Convention, in San Antonio, Texas, we have been thinking overtime about the changes community colleges can make to better serve students over the next three, five, even 10 years.
We have called these campus-driven changes The Next Big Things, and we’re placing them at the heart of the conversation at the annual meeting. The goal is to transform our nation’s institutions into veritable hubs of educational and economic opportunity for all students. The initiatives we are promoting cover every step of a student’s higher-education journey, from college readiness to degree completion. They include everything from partnering with K–12 schools to ensuring stackable credentials for transfer to collaborating with industry leaders on workforce development.
But among all of these topics, one is at the top of our list: student support. We serve a wide diversity of students — and we are proud of it. As such, the students we serve often come through our doors with certain challenges — both inside and outside the classroom: They may be a first-generation American or a parent; they may come from a low-income community or have to balance school and work to support themselves. With this in mind, one of the most important ways that we can promote educational success for all students is to ensure that once they are on campus, they have the support — both academic and nonacademic — that they need to reach their college and career goals. Some of these supports include the following:
We know that the cost of higher education can be a barrier for students at every milestone along their educational pathway. One way community colleges can help to provide students with the right financial advice and aid is by partnering with national organizations. For instance, the nonprofit Single Stop USA works with the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) to help students apply for a variety of college supports. Single Stop has connected tens of thousands of community college students with over $100 million in financial and other support, including tax credits and financial counseling.
Advising and mentoring
From the moment they arrive on campus, students should be paired with an academic adviser, a mentor or a peer counselor — someone who can ensure that students have the help needed to identify goals and complete degrees. For example, The Network for Student Success, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, helps students overcome barriers to college graduation. The program is aimed specifically at minority males and provides access to supportive relationships. Through a one-on-one mentorship model called “brother-to-brother case management,” students receive specialized attention to help identify completion goals and cultivate behaviors to improve academic success, from sitting at the front of the classroom to introducing themselves to professors.
By providing students with wraparound supports, from financial aid to course selection to nonacademic mentorship, we can ensure that every student is able to take full advantage of the educational and career opportunities that higher education presents.
Join us from April 18–21 at the AACC Annual Convention, in San Antonio, to talk more about student support and the rest of The Next Big Things our colleges can do to set students on a path to success.
How is your college providing extra support to students so they reach their educational goals? Tell us in the Comments.