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Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy
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Student Access and Success

The Institute is working to identify changes in state, system, and campus policies that would improve students’ access to and success in the state’s community colleges and universities. In various projects we have:

  • Analyzed a cohort of community college students to discern patterns of attendance and course taking that are associated with greater student success, and evaluated the state and campus policies that contribute to the patterns we observed;

  • Evaluated transfer rates in community colleges, and identified factors that explain observed differences in transfer rates among California's community colleges;

  • Examined issues of capacity at the four-year institutions to accommodate transfer students;

  • Studied the combined impact of enrollment growth pressures, fee increases, and budget cuts on access in the California Community College system, focusing on districts in five southern counties that are experiencing high rates of growth in the college-age population.

Publications

Presentations

Divided We Fail: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California's Community Colleges
October 2010
IHELP’s newest report, sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity, analyzes the outcomes of degree-seeking students in the California Community College system. The study tracks more than a quarter of a million students over six years, analyzing their progress along a series of intermediate milestones and completion outcomes by race/ethnicity. The report points out the risks to the entire state posed by racial/ethnic disparities and offers recommendations for changes to policy and practice with a goal of improving student success, especially among underrepresented minority populations. The recommendations include coordinating a systemwide effort  to analyze cohort data on enrollment patterns and student progress and the adoption of a new funding model for the community colleges.

Divided We Fail in LA: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in the Los Angeles Community College District
November 2010
IHELP's newest report was sponsored by Alliance for a Better Community, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities for Latinos to ensure the well-being of the Los Angeles region.  It applies the approach used in our recent report, Divided We Fail, to the nine colleges within the Los Angeles Community College District. The study tracks the 2003-04 entering cohort of degree- and certificate-seeking students (more than 18,000 students) over six years, analyzing their progress along a series of intermediate milestones and completion outcomes by race/ethnicity. The report points out the risks posed by racial/ethnic disparities and offers recommendations for changes to policy and practice with a goal of improving student success, especially among underrepresented minority populations.

Taking the Next Step: The Promise of Intermediate Measures for Meeting Postsecondary Completion Goals
September 2010
This new report, sponsored by Jobs for the Future and written by IHELP Research Specialist Jeremy Offenstein and IHELP Director Nancy Shulock, examines system, state and multi-state efforts and multi-institution initiatives to develop and use intermediate measures of student success as a tool to improve accountability and guide institutional efforts to improve student success. The report distinguishes between milestones that must be attained in order to get to completion and success indicators that increase a student’s chances of completion. The report analyzes the differences in approach, definitions and uses of the data on intermediate measures and offers recommendations on the collection, reporting and effective use of the data and the need for common practices and definitions.

Advancing by Degrees - A Framework for Increasing College Completion
April 2010
This new report, produced by IHELP for The Education Trust, offers higher education leaders guidance on using data to monitor student progress and applying the results to inform changes in policy and practice to help more students earn degrees. The report describes a framework of milestones, or intermediate educational achievements that students reach along the path to degree completion, and on-track indicators, or academic and enrollment patterns that are related to a greater likelihood of graduation. The report uses data from the State University System of Florida and the California Community Colleges to demonstrate how the framework can be used in two-year and four-year institutions to diagnose where and why students fall off the path to success and to make changes in policy and practice to increase degree completion. The Education Trust, working with the National Association of System Heads, will distribute the report to leaders of higher education systems across the country.

Strategies for Improving Higher Education in California: Some Lessons from Florida for California's Higher Education Policy
March 2010
This newest policy brief, sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity, examines the public higher education policies and practices of the state of Florida in order to determine possible lessons for California in its efforts to increase student success and degree completion. Florida was chosen for evaluation due to its large and diverse higher education system, the importance of community colleges in its higher education system, and its participation in national projects and education reform efforts. While Florida still faces significant challenges, some of the state’s policy approaches for public higher education warrant consideration in California’s quest for improvement, specifically the comprehensive student data system, policies related to student transfer from community colleges, statewide Career Technical Education program standards, and standardized policies for assessment, placement and remediation.

Student Flow Analysis: CSU Student Progress Toward Graduation
September 2009
The above is a linked excerpt of the IHELP report to the California State University as part of its one-year planning grant from the Lumina Foundation’s Making Opportunity Affordable project. The report studies the 23-campus system’s efforts to improve graduation rates, analyzes systemwide data on student progress toward degrees, and makes recommendations for future steps. IHELP researchers drew on their previous work on student success in Steps to Success in order to use the “milestone” framework to analyze student patterns of progress toward completion.

Pathways to Success: Lessons from the Literature on Career Technical Education
December, 2009
IHELP’s newest report is part of a project supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation to identify policies and practices that could increase student success in certain career pathways through the California community colleges. This literature review analyzes evidence on the effectiveness of career-oriented education in high schools and community colleges and discusses the factors that promote successful educational outcomes for students enrolled in career-technical programs. It finds the literature scarce on career-technical education (CTE) student success and suggests that further research would help us better understand and strengthen CTE student and program outcomes to better meet the needs of the workforce.

Steps to Success: Analyzing Milestone Achievement to Improve Community College Student Outcomes
October 2009
IHELP’s newest report offers a framework, based on the research literature, for guiding educators in using available knowledge and tools to improve student outcomes. Using data for the California Community Colleges, the report illustrates the framework, which consists of milestones, or intermediate educational achievements that students reach along the path to degree completion, and indicators of success, or academic patterns students follow including remediation, gateway courses, and credit accumulation. The report shows how the framework can be used to diagnose where and why students fall off the path to success, to suggest appropriate interventions, and to improve accountability in community colleges.

Community College Student Outcomes: Limitations of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Recommendations for Improvement.
August 2009
IHELP’s report on the IPEDS analyzes the value and effectiveness of the system for understanding student outcomes in community colleges. The report discusses the system’s shortcomings such as the limitation of the graduation rate data to full-time students, the difficulty in discerning student intent in order to report on the appropriate outcomes, and the limitations for using the data to make comparisons across colleges. Recommendations are made for improving the data collected and for better use of the data.

Student Progress Toward Degree Completion: Lessons from the Research Literature
September 2009
This report reviews the research literature on student success to identify intermediate outcomes, sometimes called “milestones,” along the college pathway that give students momentum toward degree completion. It points to academic behaviors and patterns that have been found to predict student progress and success that can, therefore, be tracked to identify where and why student progress stalls and how changes to policies and practices might increase degree completion. The report was prepared as background for upcoming reports on milestone achievement among community college and university students.

Crafting a Student-Centered Transfer Process in California: Lessons from other states
August, 2009
This report tackles the difficult challenge of making transfer more comprehensible and less frustrating for California’s community college students. The study examines transfer policies of eight states, identifies some key dimensions of emerging policies, and offers recommendations for more student-centered transfer policies that would increase transfer success and lead to more college educated Californians to help meet workforce needs.

It Could Happen: Unleashing the Potential of California's Community Colleges to Help Students Succeed and California Thrive
February, 2008
(click here for foldout insert)
This report integrates our work over the last year on how to increase student success. It proposes a specific agenda for policy change that could lead to significant and lasting increases in student success.

Moving Forward: Increasing Latino Enrollment in California's Public Universities November, 2007
This report examines issues of UC/CSU eligibility among under-represented minority high school students, with a specific focus on the growing Latino population. The report describes a simple model that can be used to estimate the impact of eligibility increases among Latinos. (click here to see the model)

Invest in Success: How Finance Policy Can Increase Student Success at California's Community Colleges
October, 2007
(click here for Executive Summary)
This report analyzes the degree to which state finance policies for the community colleges align with state priorities - such as access, completion and affordability. It concludes that there is considerable misalignment; therefore, funds are not invested as well as they might be to accomplish state goals. Alternative approaches to finance are explored, and a new approach is suggested to replace traditional (and ineffective) performance funding with "investing in success."

Beyond the Open Door: Increasing Student Success in the California Community Colleges
August, 2007
(click here for Executive Summary)

This report provides detailed analyses of factors related to student success, connects those factors to state and institutional policies, and offers recommendations for policy reforms. It includes a qualitative analysis of the CCC assessment and placement process.

Rules of the Game: How State Policy Creates Barriers to Degree Completion and Impedes Student Success in the California Community Colleges, February 2007
This report finds low completion rates among degree-seeking students and identifies several areas of state policy that inadvertently create barriers to student success. It offers general recommendations for how changes to state policy in these areas can increase student success.

Diminished Access to the Baccalaureate for Low-income and Minority Students in California: The Impact of Budget and Capacity Constraints on the Transfer Function, May 2005
This article was published in the journal Educational Policy (vol. 19, no. 2)

Effect of Racial/Ethnic Composition on Transfer Rates in Community Colleges: Implications for Policy and Practice, September 2004
This article was published in the journal Research in Higher Education (vol. 45, no. 6)

Ensuring Access with Quality to California Community Colleges, May 2004
The Institute was a contributing author to this report published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The report integrates enrollment projections for community colleges with in-depth interviews with educators, analyzes the scope of current access problems, and makes recommendations aimed at avoiding even greater problems over the next decade.

Diminishing Access to the Baccalaureate through Transfer: The Impact of State Policies and Implications for California, April 2004
This report discusses the reasons behind a narrowing transfer pathway from community colleges to universities in California. It raises questions policymakers should consider in targeting scarce resources to generate the best educational outcomes for Californians.

Capacity Constraints in California's Public Universities: A Factor Impeding Transfer?, September 2003
This report examines the issue of capacity constraints in California's public universities, and whether limited capacity is a factor impeding the success of the community college transfer function.

California Community College Transfer Rates:  Policy Implications and a Future Research Agenda, February 2003
This statistical study identifies factors that explain observed differences in transfer rates among California's community colleges.

Milestones and Indicators for Postsecondary Success
Presented to Pathways to Postsecondary Success, UC/ACCORD June 23, 2011

From Access to Success in the California Community Colleges: Performance Policy and Practice
Presented at the Woodland Community College Forum, January 12, 2011

Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California Community Colleges
Presented at Campaign for College Opportunity's Capitol Briefing, November 10, 2010

Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in the Los Angeles Community College District
Presented at the Alliance for a Better Community's Divided We Fail in LA briefing, November 9, 2010

Community College Student Success in Context: Performance and State Policy. Presented to the Los Angeles City College Academic Senate, March 18, 2010

From Access to Success in the California Community Colleges: Questioning Assumptions and Establishing Principles. Presented at the Community College League of California Commission on the Future, February 26, 2010

Student Success in the California Community Colleges: Lessons from and Acting on Research Knowledge. Presented at the Association of California Community College Administrators' Annual Conference, February 18, 2010

Monitoring and Using Milestones to Increase Student Success: An Overview
Presented to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, January 28, 2010

Crafting a Student Centered Transfer Process in California: Lessons from other States. Presented at the 2009 Capitol Briefing Series in Sacramento, December 14, 2009

Milestones and Indicators of Success: A Framework for Improving Student Outcomes
Presentation to the National Association of System Heads (NASH) Access to Success (A2S) Leading Indicators Project, November 11, 2009

Political and Policy Barriers to Basic Skills Education in the California Community Colleges. Presentation to the American Educational Research Association, April 14, 2009

Policy Matters: Creating the Best Conditions for Community College Student Success
Presentation to a seminar sponsored by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), April 10, 2009. Click here to listen to a podcast of the presentation.

Designing Policies to Increase Student Success, Presentation to Pennsylvania's Achieving the Dream Student Success Forum, October 10, 2008

Community College Transfer: Obstacles and Barriers. Presentation to Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University, September 15, 2008

A Call for Change? Increasing Student Success at California Community Colleges. Presentation to the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Education and Workforce Development Committee, May 23, 2008

Levers of Change: Role of Financial Aid and Institutional Reform in Promoting Student Success at California Community Colleges. Presentation to the College Access Foundation, May 20, 2008

From Access to Success in California's Community Colleges: No Time to Waste. Presentation at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley, February 12, 2008

Untapped Opportunities: Designing Policies to Increase Student Success
Presentation to the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, November 1, 2007

Beyond the Open Door: Leveraging Institutional Change through State Policy Reform
Presentation to the Community College Leadership Development Initiatives (CCLDI), October 11-12 and November 2, 2007

Increasing Opportunities for Student Success: Changing the "Rules of the Game"
Presentation to the Community College Leadership Development Initiatives' Policy Seminar on Quality and Affordability in California's Community Colleges, May 9, 2007

Student Success in the California Community Colleges: Why does it matter? How do we know? What do we do?
Presentation to the Community College League of California's annual Trustees conference, May 6, 2007

Using Data for a Change: Three Conversations
Presentation to the joint conference of the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges and the California Community Colleges Chief Information System Officers Assocation, March 26, 2007

Latino College Success and the California Dream
Presentation to Greater Los Angeles Chicano-Latino Administrator, Faculty & Staff Community College Assocation, March 24, 2007

Latino Student Access and Success: Research Findings and Policy Implications
Presentation to NALEO Education Leadership Initiative, California Statewide Policy Institute on Higher Education Access and Success, January 16, 2007

"The Cockeyed Optimist": Student Success Research or "What Kind of Fool am I?" Presentation to the California Community Colleges Chief Instructional Officers' fall conference, November 3, 2006