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

Grant Opportunity for Illinois Community Colleges:
Pathways to Results, Partnership and Planning for Student Success Grant - FY2017

Current Topics

  • Globalizing Campuses at Community Colleges and MSIs: Illinois Opens Up the Conversation in a New Program

    Community colleges and minority serving institutions (MSIs) are crucial partners in the comprehensive internationalization of K-16 education. These institutions provide instruction for nearly half of undergraduates in the country, with community colleges enrolling over 44 percent of college-going African Americans and 56 percent of Hispanic students (Ma & Baum, 2016, p.5), with MSIs enrolling more than 58 percent of minority students (Li, 2007, p. vi). Yet, as the recently released Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks for Higher and Tertiary Education remind, comprehensive internationalization necessitates the adoption of sustainable models, the improvement of institutional performance, and campus-wide dedication to the holistic development of globally competent students.

    This July the Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois opened doors for faculty and international education leaders from ten community colleges and two four-year minority-serving institutions (MSIs) from New Jersey to California. The Fellows who participated in the inaugural Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab met colleagues, mined resources, and explored initiatives on the Champaign-Urbana campus. Their goal? To create sustainable pathways to global learning for their students through new courses and programs. As community colleges and MSIs have been impacted by the global economy and increasing flows of information technology and culture, they have adapted their institutional behavior and campus culture, often more by necessity than by choice (Levin, 2002). In addition, the gradual shift in the U.S. population from a white majority to a minority majority has been echoed across college campuses, where the percentage of college students who are minority has been increasing (Snyder & Dillow, 2015, p. 378), alongside a surge in enrollment from international students (IIE, 2015). These enrollment trends have remade college campuses into more culturally plural institutions, heightening the importance of expanding cultural literacy, worldviews and global knowledge for students and faculty alike. The Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab Fellows, acknowledging the increasing engagement with other cultures and the growing impact of global forces, recognized the importance of embedding global content in courses, curricula and programs to assist in the internationalization efforts of their campuses. According to one Fellow, “watching new films and gathering potential readings for a new class amounted to a mini-graduate course.” As another related, “what I found really beneficial was meeting different faculty from a variety of disciplines, discussing my topic, and exploring connections.”

    The Summer Lab is a joint initiative between the International and Area Studies Library, the Center for Global Studies, and University of Illinois area studies centers. Designated “Title VI National Resource Centers (NRCs)” by the U.S. Department of Education, these centers have the mission to enhance teacher training and instruction in less commonly taught languages as well as in interdisciplinary area and global studies for the benefit of underrepresented and underserved students. This mission serves community colleges, as the last round of Title VI NRC funding increased opportunities for collaborative programming with two-year institutions. Prior to the Global Area Studies Summer Research Lab, Title VI funds from University of Illinois NRCs supported post-secondary outreach to community colleges and minority-serving institutions in partnership with the Midwest Institute for International and Intercultural Education, a consortium of two-year colleges. The Center for Global Studies also joined other University of Illinois NRCs in providing curriculum and professional development opportunities for faculty and cultural immersion activities for students at Parkland College in Champaign. The Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab expands upon such existing programs. It opens up opportunities for new synergies in postsecondary outreach by welcoming instructors, librarians, and international higher education leaders from across the country to explore resources at the University of Illinois.

    The task of globalizing campuses involves intricate processes that are packed with challenges at every step. With this in mind, we ask our readers, how can initiatives like the Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab create integrated programs for comprehensive internationalization? Moreover, what resources are needed to more effectively foster diversity and inclusion at community colleges and MSIs?        

    To share your thoughts, comment here or send your feedback to

    • Institute of International Education (IIE). (2015). International student enrollment trends, 1948/49-2014/15. In Open Doors report on international educational exchange. Retrieved from
    • Levin, J. S. (2002). Globalizing the community college: Strategies for change in the twenty-first century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Li, X. (2007). Characteristics of minority-serving institutions and minority undergraduates enrolled in these institutions (NCES 2008-156). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
    • Ma, J., & Baum, S. (2016). Trends in community colleges: Enrollment, prices, student debt, and completion. College Board Research Brief. Retrieved from
    • Snyder, T.D., & Dillow, S.A. (2015). Digest of education statistics 2013 (NCES 2015-011). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from

    The Center for Global Studies would like to thank Dr. Heather L. Fox, Assistant Director of Operations, Communications, and Research at OCCRL and Dr. Vance S. Martin, Instructional Designer at Parkland College, for their participation and support of the Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab.

    Dr. Zsuzsánna Magdó  developed the GAS-SRL while serving as Program Assistant at the Center for Global Studies. She can be reached at

    Dr. Donna C. Tonini is the Assistant Director at the Center for Global Studies. She can be reached at

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  • Harry S Truman College’s Multipronged Approach to Improving Retention and Completion Among Males of Color

    Through data collection and analysis, Harry S Truman College (Truman) found equity gaps for Black and Latino males in their cosmetology program. Black and Latino males were not persisting or completing at rates comparable to their White or female counterparts. Truman identified two contributing factors that impacted completion for the males of color in their program. The first factor was identified through an analysis of COMPASS reading assessment scores. This analysis revealed reading supports could be important in supporting students’ academic success. Second, they learned through a survey of males of color that male students were interested in barbering. To address these factors Truman implemented new integrated and proactive reading supports and incorporated barbering-specific content into the programs curriculum. Truman’s reading interventions include pre- and post-course assessments, integrated reading center supports, and reading tutoring supports.

    Truman was one of five colleges who were part of PTR’s first cohort of second-year implementation and evaluation grants. These teams are expanding on the work completed in the first year of the PTR project. Truman's PTR team is setting the stage for scaling change at their institution. Truman is an exemplar in translating critical data analysis into actionable transformative changes that improve equity and outcomes for their students. The work being done at Truman may inspire you in ways that support students of color at your institution. Read Edmund Graham’s, Ready and Interested: Harry S Truman College’s Multipronged Approach to Improving Retention and Completion Among Males of Color to learn more.

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  • Employing Content-Based Curricula in Nursing at Illinois Central College to Improve Equity and Outcomes for Students

    Pathways to Results has undergone a number of changes over the years in being responsive to practitioners who use it to improve student outcomes within community college pathways. This past year (FY15), OCCRL implemented one of our largest transformations yet – a second year grant focused on the implementation and evaluation of solutions. Five teams piloted this work, Illinois Central College being one. This made sense as Illinois Central was also a part of the original PTR pilot in 2009 and has been a perennial PTR partner over the years.

    Our new strategy briefs series highlight the experiences of teams as they work to improve student outcomes through the implementation and evaluation of high impact solutions. In the case of Illinois Central College, their teamed discovered that students had trouble in various healthcare pathways and so decided to embark on a five-year curriculum redesign –shifting from a content based to concept based curriculum. To learn more about Illinois Central’s work, check out Employing Content-Based Curricula in Nursing at Illinois Central College to Improve Equity and Outcomes for Students.

    PTR team 2

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  • Two Illinois Community Colleges to Participate in Pell Eligibility Experiment for Dual Credit Students

    On October 31, 2015, the dual credit/dual enrollment policy landscape changed, at least in part, when the Department of Education (ED) announced an experiment expanding access to Federal Pell Grants to low-income high school students taking college coursework. This is the first time that high school students will be able to use Federal Pell Grants to pay for dual enrollment courses (U.S. Department of Education, 2015).

    While the ED reports that over 1.4 million high school students participate in dual enrollment nationwide, the Dual Enrollment Experimental Site Initiative is limited in time and money: three years, with $20 million in 2016–2017, “benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country” (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). Postsecondary institutions around the country were invited to submit applications to participate in the Dual Enrollment Experimental Site Initiative. Importantly, the announcement situates the Dual Enrollment Experimental Site Initiative within President Obama’s overall concern for student access to community colleges.

    Illinois Community College Participation

    In May 2016, ED announced a list of 44 postsecondary institutions across 23 states that were invited to participate in the Dual Enrollment Experimental Site Initiative (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Among the participants in Illinois are Carl Sandburg College, in Galesburg, and Illinois Central College, in East Peoria. Lori Sundberg, president of Carl Sandburg College said, “To be selected for this program is an incredible opportunity for us and for high school students in our district” (Carl Sandburg College, 2016). She continued, “Dual credit students are and will continue to be an important piece of our enrollment. Allowing them to have access to these federal grants expands that opportunity to even more students and puts them in a position to be more successful in college once they graduate from high school” (Carl Sandburg College, 2016). Twelve of the fourteen school high school districts within Sandburg’s district have more than 40% of their students classified as low-income (Carl Sandburg College, 2016). Carl Sandburg expects that the new Pell resource will help “expand access to dual enrollment courses for low-income, first-generation students” (Carl Sandburg College, 2016).

    Illinois Central College

    Bruce Budde, then-interim president of Illinois Central College (ICC) said,

    We are grateful to the Dept. of Education for the opportunity to participate in this groundbreaking experiment. The program aligns well with our focus on student success and our long-term strategy to accelerate the completion or transfer of our students district-wide, particularly those who have historically been under served. (Illinois Central College, 2016)

    This summer, OCCRL contacted Carl Sandburg and ICC to congratulate them and to learn more about their hopes for the Experiment. In particular, we asked each college to touch on some of the more immediate impacts they anticipate. Over the course of three years, the Experiment will be well studied by the DOE and colleges are just beginning to implement plans. Our hope was simply to gain a window into each dual credit program and how students (and schools) might benefit right away from the new resources. Both colleges were kind enough to share their thoughts on what is in store.

    ICC Vice President of Student Services Tracy Morris spoke to the Pell Initiative in conjunction with the launch of the Strong Start program, which puts qualified high school students on track for an associate’s degree at ICC.

    We saw the most immediate impact of this initiative with the spring 2016 launch of the Strong Start program within the Peoria Public School system. At first, there was limited interest in the program, with only two students participating. At the time, we suspected that the cost to participate in the Strong Start program (with no opportunity for financial aid or scholarships) was a major factor, although this was not confirmed.

    Upon hearing of our selection for the Pell Grant Experimental program, the Peoria Public School system was at the forefront of those interested in the program and sent out a communication to all students eligible for the Strong Start program. More than 100 interested students came to informational sessions, and more than 50 students applied for consideration. While not all students were eligible for financial aid, the interest generated in Strong Start was outstanding. We ended up with 21 students enrolling in the Strong Start program. We anticipate that this number will grow in the next cycle, since the enrollment and promotion was done in the summer.

    In addition, this program has opened access to students in the two most underserved high schools in the Peoria Public School District. In one school, seven of the eight interested students were eligible for financial aid, and in the other school, six of the 11 interested were eligible. These two schools, in particular, lack access to dual credit options, so this participation in Strong Start is the only opportunity for students attending these schools.

    Carl Sandburg

    Carl Sandburg Dean of Extension Services Debra S. Miller talked about the immediate benefit for students already taking dual credit courses, but perhaps paying out of pocket for tuition and other expenses.

    My colleagues and I believe that this program will be very important to schools and students in subsequent semesters. This summer, we contacted our current dual credit students to encourage them to apply for Pell and those current students are the ones who mostly took advantage of the program for fall.

    We think, given we have the high schools helping to promote this program to their students during this fall and we also have many avenues to communicate to all high school students in our district through the structures of the high school, we believe we will have more student applications this fall and next spring. Hopefully, this grant program will allow our current dual credit students to be able to afford to take more credit hours and, somewhat more importantly, provide access to students who are in families who could not afford dual credit without Pell and were unable to participate until now.

    Therefore, we believe that the Pell can be a transformative opportunity for many low-income students who can now have access to dual credit coursework for a pathway to a credential and, later a career.

    Congratulations to Carl Sandburg College and Illinois Central College! OCCRL looks forward to learning more about your successes and challenges as the Initiative unfolds.


    Carl Sandburg College. (2016). Sandburg chosen for dual enrollment Pell Grant pilot program. Galesburg, IL: Author.

    Illinois Central College. (2015). ICC and Washington High School partner to offer students a strong start in college. East Peoria, IL: Author.

    Illinois Central College. (2016). U.S. Department of Education selects ICC for nationwide experiment on dual enrollment. East Peoria, IL: Author. 

    U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Department of Education launches experiment to provide Federal Pell grant funds to high school students taking college courses for credit [Fact Sheet]. Washington, DC: Author. 

    U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Expanding college access through the dual enrollment Pell experiment. [Fact Sheet]. Washington, DC: Author.

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  • Implementing Contextualized Math to Address Barriers to Completion for Students in the MultiCraft Technology Pathway at Sauk Valley Community College

    Sauk Valley Community College initially sought to explore gender equity within the MultiCraft Technology pathway. However, the data revealed that students in general were electing to take technical courses in the first few semesters and delaying general education requirements until the end. Skills gaps in math and reading that required developmental coursework compounded this problem. Thus, the team identified developmental education needs and structures as distinctive barriers to completion.

    After an exploration of the math curriculum within the pathway, the team concluded that the curriculum could be revamped to integrate math concepts within the technical courses in lieu of requiring one technical math course. Feedback from students and industry partners indicate that the integration of math in the technical curriculum had the potential to alleviate obstacles to completion, boost confidence, and better prepare students for the workforce.

    Sauk Valley was one of five colleges who were part of PTR’s first cohort of second-year implementation and evaluation grants. These teams are expanding on the work completed in the first year of the PTR project. Sauk Valley’s PTR team is setting the stage for scaling change at their institution. With approximately 56% of their incoming students placing into at least one developmental course, institutional efforts to support students in overcoming this barrier to completion have been embraced beyond this pathway. Administrators were able to see the opportunity for scale and sustainability in an institution-wide effort to redesign developmental education. The work being done at Sauk Valley may inspire you to embrace innovative strategies to alleviate barriers to completion for students placed into developmental education at your institution. Read Integrating Contextualized Math in the MultiCraft Curricula at Saux Valley Community College to learn more.

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Building Institutional Capacity in Engaging Males of Color
J. Luke Wood, Ph.D.
San Diego State University

Discourses of College-Going or Criminality
Amalia Dache-Gerbino, Ph.D.
University of Missouri

Social Justice: Equity, Access, and the Community College Advantage
Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, Ph.D.
University of Illinois


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