Experiences and engagement levels of entering community college students and returning students

De los Reyes, Maria Oralia
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In order to explore the differences in engagement levels between entering and returning community college students, the researcher analyzed 13,300 surveys from the 2007 Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE) pilot data set utilizing a quantitative methodology. This study focused on analyzing engagement levels of entering and returning students in six constructs: Active and Collaborative Learning, First Day, Student Effort, Student-faculty Interaction, Support for Learners, and Motivation. After the comparison between the two groups was performed, data were disaggregated by eleven groups to further explore differences. Differences in engagement levels were explored in terms of students’ characteristics such as remedial background, age, gender, full-time status, ethnicity, degree seeking, first generation, and traditional status. The results of this study revealed that returning community college students in general, are more engaged in educational practices associated with persistence than entering students. In addition, findings suggest that with the exception of one variable (overall high school grade average), students commonly categorized as “at risk” or “disadvantaged” (developmental, non-traditional, part-time, first generation, minorities) overwhelmingly held higher levels of engagement in all positive engagement variables of the six analyzed constructs. Furthermore, in an analysis of disaggregated data by eleven groups of students, the following was found: o Students who placed in three developmental courses were by far the most highly engaged group in all positive engagement variables of the six constructs. o Students with the highest level of engagement in the two negative variables of the Student Effort construct (skipped class or came to class without completing readings or assignments) were traditional, 18-19 year olds, not-first generation, and non-developmental students. o Students who reported that success courses had helped them to get the knowledge necessary to succeed in college were overwhelmingly disadvantaged students (developmental, non-traditional, females and minorities). o Developmental students showed higher levels of engagement with regard to college services. o Financial aid advising and skill labs (math, reading, and writing) were the two services with the highest number of statistically significant differences throughout the eleven groups. This study was concluded with recommendations for further research and strategies that community college stakeholders could implement to increase student retention.