When we interviewed dozens of community college students about their challenges and unmet needs, many reported struggling with navigating college resources. When we subsequently heard from over 10,000 students via survey about the services they need to achieve their vision of success, the overwhelming majority responded positively to a service centered around helping students navigate these resources. 

Last year, we embarked on the Community College Academic and Student Service Ecosystem (CCASSE) project to determine how support services are currently organized, funded, and staffed; the key success factors, tradeoffs, opportunities, and challenges associated with the organization of these services; and how the library can best organize itself to develop and sustain services to contribute to student success. Recognizing that students face substantial challenges in navigating the array of services available to them, we are aiming to build evidence to help community college leaders think even more intentionally about the ways they have structured and designed these services — and the ways they should proceed going forward.

Today, we release our first report of findings from this project, Organizing Support for Student Success, on a survey conducted this spring of 249 chief academic and student affairs officers across 229 not-for-profit colleges serving two-year students. We investigated the goals of these higher education leaders; how the services offered at their college are organized, funded, and staffed; and their expectations for the future of their colleges.

What did we find? Senior administrators rated increasing student retention, graduation, and course completion as the most important objectives to their college as well as to the services under their own leadership. When asked where services at their college report to, many are consistent in their reporting either to academic or student affairs. However, peer to peer mentoring, academic advising, and dual enrollment services do not clearly report to a single department, and may be jointly led by academic and student affairs, or by a different department entirely.

What about the library? While only about four in ten respondents highly value the role of the library overall, the overwhelming majority of respondents, especially those at transfer-focused colleges, specifically value the library in providing students with access to technology, resources, and spaces.

The report also explores the financial constraints leaders face, and any foreseen changes to their future budget or funding sources. Senior administrators’ anticipated changes to their service offerings and curriculum are discussed, including expectations of increased use of learning analytics tools, and courses for workforce and distance learning students.

Over the next year, we will be visiting five community colleges to provide a more holistic understanding of how services are currently structured at different kinds of colleges and how these services are currently meeting student needs. In the meantime, how do the results released today resonate with the structures and services available at your college? How has your college organized services to serve the needs of your students?

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