Collaborative LearningAcademic AchievementCollege Student SuccessCollege Student Retention

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new study!

How can community colleges use their institutional policies and organizational structures to improve student success? The answer to this question is emerging slowly over time from research in higher education. Meanwhile, for perspective and guidance, many community college leaders and practitioners are looking at what similar institutions are doing. To provide community colleges with national comparative data that addresses this need, the Study of Community College Structures for Student Success (SCCSSS) is conducting a nationwide survey of community college policies and organizational structures designed to enhance student retention, transfer, and program completion. The results of this survey, launched in spring 2011, will give a national-scale descriptive view of how community colleges organize themselves to improve key measures of student success. SCCSSS is a collaboration of the College Board, the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University, and the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California.

The College Board Study on Student Retention

The College Board Study on Student Retention is working with postsecondary institutions across the country to develop survey instruments identifying key campus policies and practices as well as student behaviors associated with student retention. Using these survey results, campus administrators will be able to determine more accurately the programs and policies that influence their students’ success and retention.

This initiative is conducting research both on student experiences (via its student survey) and on the policies and practices of institutions nationwide (via its institutional surveys, the Study of Student Retention Practices and the Study of Community College Structures for Student Success). Results from the student survey will help four-year colleges and universities determine which campus policies and practices have the greatest impact on student experiences related to retention. Results from the institutional surveys will enhance understandings at two-year and four-year institutions of the links between the institutions’ policies and practices and student retention and other success measures. This survey will also provide documentation and measurement of the policies and practices related to retention at institutions across the country.

The College Board Study on Student Retention is funded by the College Board and brings together the research expertise and resources of the Project on Academic Success (PAS) at Indiana University and the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice (CERPP) at the University of Southern California.

Study of Student Retention Practices (SSRP)

For the pilot version of the institutional survey of the College Board Study on Student Retention, four-year colleges and universities in five states provided information on their retention and graduation rates and on the organization and structure of their efforts to support student success and retention. Results of the pilot have been published by the College Board in How Colleges Organize Themselves to Increase Student Persistence. Drawing on the analyses of these survey data and widening the focus of this inquiry, the new institutional survey, first administered in 2009, encompasses national-scope description and benchmarking of the retention policies and practices at four-year colleges and universities. A report outlining the new survey results will be released by the College Board in 2011. A parallel survey of two-year institutions, the Study of Community College Structures for Student Success, is under way.

Study of Community College Structures for Student Success (SCCSSS)

The Study of Community College Structures for Student Success (SCCSSS) is a new national survey focused on organizational structures that enhance student persistence, transfer, and program completion at community colleges. A collaboration of the College Board, the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University, and the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California, the study will compile a national-scale descriptive view of how community colleges organize themselves to improve important measures of student success, including retention, transfer, and completion.

Evidence showing how organizational structures can improve student persistence and success in community colleges is emerging from research studies slowly over time. While the research record is still accruing, however, many community college leaders and practitioners look to what similar institutions are doing to gain perspective and guidance on student success policies and organizational structures. To be launched in spring 2011, the study will provide community colleges with national comparative data addressing this need.

The Student Survey

In its student survey, the College Board Study on Student Retention employed a standard cohort research methodology widely used in student persistence studies. This survey’s target population was full-time, first-year students attending the participating campuses for the first time, never having matriculated at another campus; definitions and classifications for “first-time” and “full-time” may have varied from campus to campus. Administered to first-year students early in the spring semester in 2006 and 2007, the survey examined the depth and quality of students’ experiences with peers, faculty, and campus programs meant to support student success. With participating institutions’ enrollment data from the following fall semester indicating which of the surveyed students returned and which did not, results from the survey’s spring administration were matched with data on students returning for the fall semester. Analyses were then conducted exploring the factors associated with student persistence at each of the participating institutions.

To administer the survey, PAS worked with Indiana University’s Center for Survey Research (CSR), whose research projects include the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Most participating institutions chose to use in-class, paper-and-pencil administration of the survey for the high response rates it typically yields, while a few institutions opted for the efficiency and flexibility of the web-based administration.

College Board Advisors

  • Dr. Steven Graff, Director & Senior Consultant, Admission & Enrollment Services
  • Dr. Ronald Williams, Vice President, College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, National Commission on Community Colleges

College Board Study on Student Retention Advisory Board

  • Mr. David Bousquet, Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs, Northern Arizona University
  • Dr. John Braxton, Professor of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vanderbilt University
  • Dr. Arlene Cash, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Spelman College
  • Dr. David Kalsbeek, Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing, DePaul University
  • Dr. Vasti Torres, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University
  • Dr. Cornelia Wills, Director of the Office of Institutional Research, Middle Tennessee State University