Over the course of their attendance, community college students must navigate through an array of services—delivered through student affairs departments, academic affairs departments, libraries, and their instructors—to find the support they need. Whether they find that support depends in part on whether their institutions have developed effective service models and organizational strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the attendant necessity for increased remoting learning amidst enrollment declines and budgetary strains, also creates new challenges for students as well as for community colleges seeking to develop effective service models.

In a report published today, we shine new light on how community college service models are evolving in response to changing student needs. The findings are based on interviews we conducted between February and November 2020 with 37 chief academic officers, chief student affairs officers, library directors, faculty members, and students from community colleges across the United States. This work is part of a multi-year project, generously supported by IMLS, to examine the Community College Academic and Student Service Ecosystem (CCASSE project).

What did we find? Despite differences of approach between academic and student affairs departments, there is broad support for increased collaboration between the two “sides of the house.” 

And what about the library? Senior administrators and library directors themselves often view the library’s primary functions in supporting students as 1) providing access to appropriate collections, especially digital collections; 2) providing physical spaces for study, socializing, technology access, academic support; and 3) providing information literacy instruction. But some community college libraries are also fulfilling an important triage role, connecting students with other resources on campus.

The report also explores the strategies that community colleges are taking to make their services “student centered,” and the role that analytics can play in ensuring these services’ effectiveness. We take a deep dive into how two specific student groups identified as a strategic priority for many colleges—those affiliated through workforce training, and those who are dual enrollment—relate to the need for more customized service models. We also examine the early impacts of COVID-19 and how financial impacts are anticipated to shape service model design and administration in the years to come. 

What’s next for the CCASE project? We are currently fielding a national survey of community college library directors, and will publish results later this year. We will also continue to work with our student advisors, and begin working on organizing a convening and other public events to share our results. 


We thank the Institute of Museum and Library Services for providing support to make this project possible [LG-96-18-0198-18].