Report: College Students 'Walk a Tightrope' Toward a Degree
Monday, October 10, 2022
A new report shows community colleges need to be more persistent if they want to keep students enrolled.
The Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin interviewed students in focus groups to identify potential barriers to continuing their education.
Linda Garcia, executive director of the Center, reported students they spoke with at three Texas community colleges consistently said adequate support services are critical.
"There are some students who can navigate through the system a lot easier than others, but there are other students, it's not the same case," Garcia observed. "They may need extra support, information; especially if they're first in their family to go to higher ed."
The report, with support from the Greater Texas Foundation, revealed many students faulted themselves for procrastinating, or underestimating college-level work. Others cited financial struggles, illness -- including mental health -- and the challenge of making connections with other students or professors.
'Carlos,' identified by his first name only, participated in a video explaining how a family obligation caused him to fall behind and withdraw from college.
"Me getting behind kind-of made me feel like I was going to drown, basically, in all the work, and it was just going to be impossible to get back to where I was," Carlos recounted.
Garcia has since learned no one contacted Carlos after he dropped out, which made him feel he didn't matter.
"Students say: 'When someone knows my name, when someone knows my story, when someone cares that I am here, I feel as if I matter. And because I matter to the college, I'm more likely to persist,' " Garcia stated.
Garcia believes many students are "walking a tightrope," and said colleges need to emphasize available resources, consider making orientation sessions mandatory instead of optional, and make sure students are clear on their academic goals.
"So, any little obstacle or any little nudge can make them fall from this tightrope," Garcia noted. "So that's why it's so important to have those conversations right in the beginning, when they're brand-new, entering students."
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.
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