Grant Announcement: New Research Will Explore the First-Year Community College Student Experience

With a $204,170 grant from Greater Texas Foundation (GTF), the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) will conduct focus groups of diverse first-year community college students to understand why some students do not persist to their second term. Capturing the voice of these students will allow the research team to identify barriers to persistence and explore points of leverage that might change these outcomes.

CCCSE, based at The University of Texas at Austin, will conduct several rounds of focus groups at three Texas community colleges. Focus group discussions will be video recorded and analyzed to identify barriers to persistence in community college, and CCCSE will share its findings and practical recommendations for supporting students with institutional leaders and policymakers across the state and beyond.

With fewer than 50 percent of community college students continuing to their second year, understanding the barriers to persistence is critical to increasing the number of students receiving a postsecondary credential. CCCSE’s student-centered research approach will allow policymakers and thought leaders to identify with the struggles community college students face and create more effective policies and practices to ensure students are successful.

“Institutions need to learn from the experience of students who are struggling, and yet it is often these students that we hear from the least,” said Dr. Linda Garcia, Assistant Director of CCCSE. “By listening to students who struggle in their first year, this project will allow us to fill a significant data gap.”

“Helping students persist through their first year of community college is critical for improving postsecondary outcomes,” said Sue McMillin, GTF President and CEO. “We are very excited to see the student-centered research and recommendations that will come from this project.”

Focus groups will begin in the fall of 2020 and extend through early spring 2021. In addition to producing an executive summary and videos from the focus groups, the research team will also develop a toolkit for conducting similar focus groups on other campuses.

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