How do community college students define their own success? And what services do they think will help them succeed? To find out, we started with a radical idea: students are the experts.

Last year, we interviewed dozens of students at seven community colleges on their goals and unmet needs. Today, we release a new report, Student Needs Are Academic Needs, on a survey conducted last fall of 10,000+ students across these colleges on a variety of service prototypes to help them overcome barriers and achieve success.

Student respondents indicated great need. They often struggle with balancing their personal, professional, and academic responsibilities, including affording their most basic needs in conjunction with course expenses. While many of these challenges take place outside of the classroom, they nonetheless can have a substantial impact on academic success.

Students would highly value services to address both their curricular and non-curricular information needs, indicating substantial interest in services tailored to finding information for navigating college and for completing coursework. They need greater access to technology, especially Wi-Fi hotspots, printers, and laptops. Student parents need more support with childcare.

And not all students struggle equally or desire the same support services. Students who have been historically underserved or disadvantaged often encounter greater challenges throughout their college experience and would value potential new services more than their peers.

What is the role of the library in providing these services? Students highly value the library, along with academic advising offices, tutoring centers, and writing centers, as service providers to address many of these unmet needs. When given a list of possible institutional providers for new services, students frequently named the library as the most promising source of support. These findings affirm that libraries can and do play an essential role in student success initiatives.

In Student Needs Are Academic Needs, we, along with our colleague Braddlee at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), explore these findings and reflect on implications for greater service provision within community college contexts. Six college partners in addition to NOVA will be piloting one or more of the prototypes tested in the survey in the coming months. 

A project toolkit, including the survey instruments, guidelines for adoption and adaptation, and the survey dataset for purposes of benchmarking and comparison, will also be made available in the coming months. We will also publish issue briefs on methodologies for developing service prototypes and administering student surveys within community colleges.

The vast majority of research to date on how to adapt library services to support institutional priorities has been conducted at four year colleges and universities, and the definitions of student success used in these projects have often omitted the valuable perspective of the student in what defines success. We hope that the findings released today will help provide further guidance to higher education institutions and their libraries in making student-centered, evidence-based decisions.

We thank the Institute of Museum and Library Services for providing support to make this project possible [RE-96-17-0113-17].