Office of Community College Research and Leadership

Our mission is to use research and evaluation methods to improve policies, programs, and practices to enhance community college education and transition to college for diverse learners at the state, national, and international levels.

Project Quick Links

Call for Proposals
Illinois Community College Board is now accepting applications for new Pathways to Results: Partnership and Planning for Student Success projects across Illinois!

Current Topics

  • Supporting Completion Goals in Illinois

    The Illinois 60 by 25 Network recently gathered in Springfield for their annual meeting. The coalition of business, funders, non-profit representatives, and educators gathered to recognize and enhance the work occurring throughout the state within regional leadership communities. These communities are tasked with improving career pathway systems and post-secondary degree completion rates in their respective regions to realize the goal of 60% of the state’s residents possessing a post-secondary degree or credential by 2025. Identified session tracks included Employer Engagement and Work-Based Learning; Structuring Education Systems; Community Engagement; and Diversity, Inclusion, and Access. 

    Community colleges are, no doubt, critical to these efforts. The Pathways to Results program has a long history of engaging employers and educators in collaborative partnerships to identify equity gaps in outcomes and implement practices to close these gaps. Much of the work occurring within the regions aligns with strategies identified within PTR projects including an upcoming brief on work-based learning. As we look to the future of realizing the 60 by 25 goal, PTR is a tremendous asset to assist community colleges and their partners in approaching this goal from an equity lens to improve not only access to pathways but successful outcomes for all students.

    The annual meeting was sponsored by Advance Illinois, ISAC, Career Cruising, The Joyce Foundation, College Board, Lumina Foundation, Education Systems Center at NIU, and Telligen Community Initiative. 

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  • Illinois Public Community College Transfer and Completion Rates

    The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program in conjunction with the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University recently reported that Illinois is among the top five states where community college transfers earn four-year degrees. Illinois ranks 3rd for percentage of transfer students who earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting at a community college; the state also ranks 4th for overall percentage of bachelor’s degree outcomes among new student transfers from community colleges conferring baccalaureate degrees within six years. Illinois has 17% of community college student transfers matriculating to four-year institutions and completing BA/BS degrees while nationally only 14% of community college transfer students graduate from four-year institutions within six years.

    The tradition of college attendance being first-time, full-time at any institution without stop out, concurrent enrollment, or transfer is outmoded. With multiple institutional attendance and student swirl being the new norm, institutions of higher learning have to be more nimble and collaborative across two- and four-year contexts. For the last two decades, the Illinois Articulation Initiative has served to provide transfer agreements for over 100 colleges and universities statewide, facilitating pathways to institutions that have articulated programs of study that lead to the baccalaureate degree. In addition, iTransfer serves as a portal for transfer assistance in the state of Illinois for students seeking transfer between Illinois higher education institutions. Browse our site for information to aid student transition. Although more can be done to foster seamless transfer pathways, it is encouraging that Illinois is making strides with college completion via community college transfer.  

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  • Reflecting on High-Impact Changes to the Critical First Year

    While institutions grapple with increased pressure to move more students to completion in an environment of uncertainty and decreasing resources, it is imperative that student support programs be delivered equitably, efficiently and effectively.  As Pathways to Results begins to more actively support institutions to implement evidence-based solutions for student success, we have been reflecting on what really makes a difference for community college students in the critical first year of attendance. These types of programs are explored in the newly released brief, Exploring the Role of First-Year Experiences in Enhancing Equity and Outcomes by Marci Rockey and Randi Congleton. This brief describes the components and value of first-year programs, especially to those students that may are sometimes labeled as academically underprepared.

    What types of programming have made a difference in your students' first-year experience? What other innovative practices are being embraced at your institution to move students from access to success?

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  • At a Crossroads in Dual Credit: Introducing OCCRL's Dual Credit Blog Series

    DC logoAs part of OCCRL’s continuing focus on dual credit education, I am excited to introduce the first in a series of blogs on dual credit that OCCRL will run monthly in 2016. Last year, we focused on the intersection between tuition schedules and access for underserved students in Illinois. In light of state funding cuts for dual credit over the past seven years, increasing tuition and fees alongside decreasing student enrollment would appear likely. However, just the opposite occurred among dual credit participants.

    Between 2008 and 2013, dual credit enrollment in Illinois increased 23% from 70,000 to 90,000 (Corso, 2014). In our work, we found institutions such as Harper Community College had an increase in dual credit enrollment from 500 to 2,300 (2011-2015) and McHenry County College which experienced an increase from 33 to 916 between 2010 to 2014 (Zamani-Gallaher, North, & Lang, 2015). In addition, of the 26 colleges in our study, 21 offer a tuition-free dual credit option and 2 institutions offer a discounted tuition rate for dual credit courses. Illinois community college dual credit programs have been nimble and innovative in lieu of limited state funding reducing and/or alleviating tuition and fee costs subsequently making dual credit courses accessible, especially for underserved students. The findings from this study can be found in our recently released report, At the Crossroad of Access and Opportunity: Funding and Dual Credit Participation in Illinois.

    We are also excited to feature an article by Kent Scheffel Vice President of Enrollment Services at Lewis and Clark Community College and President of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) in the upcoming OCCRL Update on Research and Leadership. Mr. Scheffel oversees one of the largest dual credit programs in Illinois. The program extends to 18 high schools in the district and is currently the only NACEP accredited program in Illinois. NACEP standards and accreditation are designed to promote policies and practices that help to ensure college-level quality of concurrent enrollment courses.

    We look forward to featuring timely issues pertinent to dual credit, including but not limited to weighing dual credit programs and advance placement programs, teacher credentials, dual credit accreditation, and online models of dual credit and more. In all, we hope to provide you stimulating commentary on important contributions, opportunities, and challenges with concurrent enrollment at the state, regional, and national level. Please join us in sharing your thoughts on accelerated learning and best practices in dual credit!

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  • Tearing Down Obstacles to Student Success — Apply Now to Kickstart a PTR Project!

    OCCRL is excited to announce that the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) is now accepting applications for new Pathways to Results: Partnership and Planning for Student Success projects across Illinois! OCCRL and ICCB are looking for partners interested in assembling a meaningful plan for implementing an evidence-based career pathway improvement that addresses documented gaps in student success. Different than in years past, teams’ PTR work will be concentrated through participation in an intensive two-day institute to prepare for the final deliverable—an intervention plan that is eligible to be considered for a Year Two PTR grant to support implementation and scaling of the project intervention in the 2016/2017 academic year.

    Teams will be selected based on their commitment to engage in a PTR project in one of six focus areas:

    • Adult Career Pathways
    • Improvement of Federal Perkins Measures
    • Retention or Completion Improvement Across Multiple Programs
    • Transfer Pathways
    • Program Review
    • Secondary to Postsecondary Transitions

    To view the application, download it here. Applications are due February 12, 2016. For more information, please contact Heather McCambly.

    Learn more about Pathways to Results (PTR).

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