To help incoming college students succeed, many institutions offer First-Year Experience (FYE) programs. But most of the research on the scope and effectiveness of these programs centers on four-year colleges and universities. This is a significant oversight given that 38 percent of all postsecondary students are enrolled at community colleges or other two-year programs.

To begin to fill this research gap, Ithaka S+R and Two Year First Year (TYFY) recently launched a research collaboration focused on this student group. TYFY is a learning community dedicated to identifying and promoting best practices for supporting first year students at two year institutions. With support from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, we will consolidate and summarize existing research on institutional supports for first year students in two-year programs, and significantly expand the knowledge base with a first-of-its-kind survey of institutional practices across the country. The project will take a particular interest in programs geared toward low-income, first-generation, and high-achieving students.

FYE programs aim to increase student retention, which is most fragile during the first year, as well as to foster student learning and overall success. They offer holistic programming that includes first-year seminars and linked core courses, as well as a range of activities that promote student integration, engagement, and learning. These features hold promise for historically underserved students, who may be particularly likely to benefit from cohort models of learning, peer and staff mentoring, and opportunities to learn about navigating and succeeding at their institution.

To this end, this project will document the overall presence, type, and scope of existing practices that support first-year students in two-year programs, and historically underserved students in particular. We will also make recommendations that can inform the development of new programs and practices for this student population.

In addition to reviewing the current literature and conducting targeted interviews with college administrators, we recently launched a national survey of programs and practices for first year students in two-year programs. The survey is currently in the field, and we invite readers to follow the link to complete the survey for their institution, or to share the link with others who might be interested in participating. Each institution that participates in the survey will receive a customized report of survey findings for their institution, their state, and the overall sample. To review the survey before completing it, please see the PDF version.

Ithaka S+R and TYFY will host a live webcast in the spring of 2018 to share and discuss project findings, and next steps, with the higher education community.

Stay tuned for more updates on this important project. In the meantime, we are eager to hear your reflections and suggestions surrounding the first year experience at two-year colleges; please email us at