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Predicting Success

At first blush, a new report, using longitudinal data on student success, is so obvious in its key findings that you want to say, “Why bother?” The strongest purported clues to success: whether a student earned a strong grade point average and completed more credits during his or her first year of community college, as reported by Dian Schaffhauser, in Campus Technology.

That’s a little like arguing that saving money regularly has financial benefits. The demographic profile of successful students, the report confirms, is slanted toward those from affluent families, and against racial minorities. Again, unfortunately, no surprises.

But there are policy implications for community colleges. As the article reports, Senior Policy Research Analyst Jonathan Turk found that enrolling part-time was associated with a 12 percent reduction in the likelihood of college completion compared to full-timers. Students who enrolled in community college within three months of graduating from high school were almost 11 percent more likely to earn a credential than students who delayed.

Hence the authors endorse the Guided Pathways model, discussed here often. Simply put, we should get students right out of high school, get them enrolled in a well-focused plan with few random choices, and advise them with persistence and focus. The results won’t be revolutionary, but the step will improve student success significantly, the report indicates.

The report also recommends more rigorous high school courses.

The revenue side will be a challenge. Full-time students shouldn’t have full-time jobs if we expect them to succeed. That means financial aid must be more generous. Advising and counseling, in high school and college, must be beefed up, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Advisors need training to do their job right.

Sounds like a plan. But a host of other factors will likely intrude. It’s simply not possible for many community college students to enroll full-time. And the average high school graduate who needs serious advising may make some very bad choices. These kids are often pretty clueless about their future. The more we drive down the age at which they must choose, the more likely they will do so impulsively.

Here are some details on the full study:

Those results were shared in a paper published by the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS). Education technology company Hobsons provided financial support for the study.

Identifying Predictors of Credential Completion Among Beginning Community College Students” dug through data collected through the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 by the National Center for Education Statistics. This nationally representative study tracked the paths of students who began 10th grade in 2002; data was collected over a 10-year period.