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The Link Between High-Impact Practices and Student Outcomes

By Rebecca L. Weber

As colleges continue to redesign the student experience, study sheds light on the programs and resources that contribute to success.

Community colleges face a difficult problem: Pressure is mounting to increase accountability and student achievement on campus, but a lack of funding means leaders must be judicious in pursuit of reform.

To help colleges identify the sorts of high-impact practices worth investing in — there are 13 in all — the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE), at the University of Texas at Austin, recently released A Matter of Degrees: Practices to Pathways.

The third in a series of reports on high-impact practices, “A Matter of Degrees” considers three important student outcomes — completion of a developmental course, completion of a gatekeeper course and fall-to-spring/fall-to-fall persistence. Research links each outcome to a range of practices, from orientation to early registration to student advising, with a look at how each affects goal attainment.

No more late registration

Before students can graduate with a degree or transfer to a four-year college, they have to demonstrate an ability to persist from one year to the next.  Early registration is one high-impact practice that has a positive effect on student persistence rates. Consider that, in one subset of findings, nondevelopmental students who registered for all of their classes prior to the first class session were 11.29 times more likely to persist from one fall semester to the next than students who did not report registering ahead of time for all courses.

Evelyn Waiwaiole, center director at CCCSE, says 95 percent of nondevelopmental students who participated in the survey, which culled student experiences at 12 community colleges, reported registering for all courses before the start of the first class.

“I don’t think 10 years ago students could have said that,” Waiwaiole says.

Other data points revealed in the report indicate there is work still to be done. Take success courses, for example. The report indicates that of the two-thirds of U.S. community college students who require some form of developmental education, those who complete a success course are 4.49 times more likely to complete a developmental English course than those who don’t. That said, just 39 percent of developmental students participate in these courses, according to the data.

“If we know that it will make them more successful, why aren’t we requiring it?” asks Waiwaiole. “Why aren’t we saying, ‘This is how we do college here?’”

For more about first-year student experiences, check out these videos. Or download the full CCCSE report.

Which high-impact practices have you implemented on campus? Tell us in the Comments.

Rebecca L. Weber

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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