Engaging underprepared community college students : practices leading to increased outcomes
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In order to close the achievement gaps between traditionally underserved groups and their peers, institutions of higher education must make developmental education a priority by implementing college-wide strategies inside and outside the classroom to help underprepared students succeed. Since community colleges offer educational opportunities to anyone seeking to further their education, and hence serve the majority of underprepared college students, it is difficult to overstate the importance of assessing and strengthening the quality of educational practices for developmental students at these institutions. Assessing the extent to which underprepared college students are actively engaged in meaningful educational experiences, and the relationship between engagement and student outcomes, will help college leaders and policymakers implement research proven engagement strategies to help a population of students that has been historically underserved attain academic success and reap the societal and economic benefits of higher education. Relationships between engagement and three critical outcomes for underprepared college students were investigated: developmental sequence completion, subsequent college-level course performance, and attainment. Similar to studies conducted on the four-year sector, the present study found similar effects of engagement on developmental students attending community colleges. While generally having a positive effect on outcomes, engagement has been proven to have compensatory effects for students which have been typically underserved including minority, nontraditional age, and first-generation students. The present study found that the impact of engagement varies according to student characteristics and level of developmental course need and subject area. Further, the study suggests that certain types of engagement can have greater influence on students which characteristically are least likely to earn a college degree.