“Success courses” could help community college students reach academic goals (EdSource)
Encouraging more students to take these courses, as part of a range of “student support services,” is a principal recommendation of the California Community College’s Student Success Task Force.
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The Task Force, whose recommendations will be considered by the California Community College’s Board of Governors next month, pointed out that students’ “college knowledge,” or awareness and understanding of “college culture” and support services, can help them navigate the complexities of life on campus and access services such as tutoring labs and financial aid that may be critical to their success.
The report said the student success courses the Task Force had in mind would most likely be provided in a noncredit format in order to avoid issues related to cost or financial aid. But it left it up in the air as to whether they should be required for students who demonstrate they need help after taking an assessment test to measure their skill levels.
If required, it is not clear how the community colleges would pay the costs of adding multiple new course sections to serve larger numbers of students. Some community college leaders also worry that making a student success course a requirement could have the unintended impact of erecting yet another obstacle that students have to traverse in order to reach their educational goals.
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[Nadine Rosenthal, the director of City College’s Learning Assistance Center] opposed making it a required course for students who are shown to be lagging on a placement test. She said it would be “logistically challenging” as well as extremely costly to offer as many as 100 course sections without a major increase in staffing — an unlikely prospect during this period of extreme cuts to the community colleges’ budget.
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The push to expand student success courses, said Bob Gabriner, a task force member and director of the Education Leadership Program at San Francisco State, is in part a response to the difficulties in providing students with regular access to college counselors, whose ranks have been drastically diminished as a result of budget cuts, even as enrollments have increased.
“As you cut back on counseling resources and student services resources, you have to figure out how to deliver those services and that information in a more efficient way,” Gabriner said. Providing information during a 16-week semester course may be more effective than a one-time session with a counselor, he said, because instructors can reach far more students and can respond to students’ needs as they arise.
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The most compelling research showing the impact of comes from Florida, where students have taken “student life skills” classes. A 2006 study found that students who completed those classes were more more likely to earn a community college credential, transfer to the state university system, or still be enrolled in college after five years….
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