Last year, we released a landscape review delving into how different metrics of student success are currently prioritized, defined, quantified, and used within the community college sector—examining how traditional metrics of success, like those aligning with typical college objectives like graduation, retention, enrollment, and course completion, are more often prioritized and required for funding, accountability, and accreditation purposes. Subsequent interviews with institutional research and effectiveness officers provided even more clarity into the mechanisms by which traditional and holistic metrics of success are collected, maintained, and centralized. This qualitative research began to signal to us the ways in which holistic student data, such as metrics on student basic needs, well-being, belonging, and engagement, are not collected or centralized to the same extent as more traditional metrics of success.

Today, we release a new report of findings from a survey of community college provosts conducted in late 2020, Moving the Needle on College Student Basic Needs, which explores data priorities and practices, attitudes toward greater incorporation of holistic success metrics, and anticipated barriers to making adjustments to current practices. 

Throughout the report, we share evidence that in many ways signals how far the field has come. We see that higher education leaders want to expand and adjust their institutional data collection to incorporate more holistic data and are interested in serving the needs of many different student subgroups, especially those who have historically been underserved. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as recent national movements for racial equity have certainly served to underscore widespread and worsening inequities across the country, and we see these impacts reflected in how college leaders are envisioning the current and future roles of their institutions.

Yet while leaders are enthusiastic about increasing data collection that facilitates support for a full range of student needs, there are many challenges that still lie ahead. Greater prioritization of holistic student data collection and service provision now lies in developing infrastructure and centralized mechanisms to collect these data most effectively and efficiently. External mandates and incentives to make changes may also be required for local change to take place.

Later this year, we will conclude this initiative with a report containing a number of recommendations for community colleges, and the organizations to which they report data, on how holistic data on student basic needs and well-being can be more effectively gathered and prioritized. We look forward to sharing with the community as our work continues.