A study of six Texas community colleges where higher-than-expected numbers of poor and first-generation students progress to four-year schools finds that a structured academic pathway, student-centered culture, and culturally sensitive leadership are common threads among them.
The study, conducted by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, comes months after President Barack Obama set a goal that all Americans complete at least one year of postsecondary education. It defines a structured academic pathway as one where all students devise realistic four-year degree plans, participate in innovative curricula and group learning, and are encouraged to earn college credits in high school.
A student-centered culture, as defined in the report, includes characteristics typically associated with four-year schools, such as close faculty-student relationships, specialized-course advising, and first-year orientation seminars. The report says culturally sensitive leadership was represented in the community colleges by faculty and staff members from backgrounds similar to poor and first-generation students.
A version of this article appeared in the December 02, 2009 edition of Education Week as Community Colleges