How Effective are Community Colleges? New Methods for Measuring Program of Study Intention and Completion

Speaker Information:

Matthew Giani, Heather L. Fox, Katie Bridges, Debra D. Bragg

In the current era of institutional accountability, there is an increasing need to accurately gauge the effectiveness of community colleges in helping students fulfill their educational intentions. However, research has noted that community college students often have unclear intentions at enrollment and change their intentions over time, making it difficult to accurately estimate the rates at which students are indeed attaining their programmatic aspirations. The purpose of this study was to propose a novel method for assigning students to programs of study based on their actual course-taking behavior. Although the method has some limitations, such as the inability to assign students to POS which do not contain any unique courses, the results show that our method was more accurate at predicting the credentials that students would go onto earn even when compared to their stated intentions at enrollment. We believe that this method can allow community college researchers and practitioners in developing a more nuanced and robust understanding of the ways in which community college students engage with programs of study, as well as providing for more accurate estimates of the rates at which students are fulfilling their educational intentions.