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High Expectations

The latest community college student engagement survey finds that community college students are challenged by their professors and work hard in their courses.

Community colleges that have high expectations for their students and provide high levels of support, such as financial aid counseling and student success courses, are making strides in improving student outcomes, reports the 2008 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).

Like its four-year college counterpart, the National Survey of Student Engagement, the CCSSE aims to help colleges identify institutional practices and student behaviors that correlate highly with academic success and student retention.

For community colleges, student engagement is a particular challenge. Nearly two-thirds of community college students are part-time, over half work more than 20 hours per week, 30 percent have children living with them, and more than one-third are first-generation college students.

This year’s report, High Expectations, High Support, from the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, which surveyed more than 340,000 students at 585 community colleges, placed special emphasis on financial aid.

For many, the report notes, financial aid is the most important element of student engagement. “If they miss this step—if they do not get financial aid—nothing else the college does will matter because the students will not be able to enroll and stay in school.”

As important as financial aid is, only a little over half of the students surveyed filled out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), the first step in determining eligibility for student aid. Sixteen percent said they didn’t know about the financial aid process. Of those who did fill out the survey, 31 percent did not receive any financial aid. Overall, 31 percent of full-time community college students and 46 percent of part-timers received no financial aid.

In the area of high expectations, 72 percent of students reported that their colleges encouraged them to spend a significant amount of time studying. Sixty-eight percent said their exams were relatively to extremely challenging, and 49 percent of the surveyed students reported “often” or “very often” working harder than they thought they would to meet an instructor’s expectations.

In addition to reporting information gleaned from surveying faculty and students, the report identifies approaches colleges have used that have improved student performance. For more info, visit

From The Lectern

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

—President Barack Hussein Obama
Inaugural Address
January 20, 2009

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