Monday, September 8, 2014

Student Success: A Qualitative Modeling Approach to Student Success at a Rural Community College

Darren Thomas Pitcher, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership for Change

The purpose of this research was to increase student success at a small comprehensive community college in eastern Montana, herein referred to by the pseudonym Rural Community College (RCC). The study was designed to empower college administrators, faculty, and staff to foster student success by adding strategies for success via a local student success model (LSSM) to the range of best practices currently in place at RCC, such as mandatory student orientation, mandatory placement, and no late registration. The LSSM is based on student, faculty, and administrator perspectives of student success and perceived barriers to student success specific to RCC. Data supporting those perspectives were collected through a series of student focus groups and a survey completed by faculty and the college president. This qualitative study applied Padilla’s theoretical framework and associated concept modeling approach to examine perceived elements of student success as described by successful community college students at RCC. Padilla’s theoretical framework and concept modeling approach to analysis of data is known as student success research because it focuses on how students succeed, as opposed to student departure research, which focuses on why students fail. Student departure research (e.g., Tinto, Pascarella, Rendon, and Roueche) has not improved completion rates of students at community colleges to a satisfactory level. Due to the continued poor rate of student completion, combined with the national dependence on community colleges to produce graduates prepared to enter the nation’s workforce, community colleges must identify and institute comprehensive student success models. Successive studies using Padilla’s theoretical framework have created LSSMs for urban and multicampus community colleges, high-minority-serving high schools, and Hispanic-serving universities. However, those studies used criteria that limited participation for many types of students. The goal of this study was to determine whether Padilla’s local student success modeling approach is applicable to a rural community college environment, incorporating various types of community college students who were excluded from previous studies. It was concluded that students at RCC exhibited a high level of persistence, a strong work ethic, and effective time management skills.  

Key Words: Community College, student success, barriers to success, institutional barriers, academic achievement, developmental studies programs, college preparation, 2-year college students, completion agenda, performance-based funding, remedial instruction, remedial programs, academic persistence, rural, student placement, college students, achievement gap, supplementary education, digital divide, retention, student success initiatives


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