Expectations Meeting Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges
A National Report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement
Most students entering community college will be required to take at least one developmental education course—even though most of those students believe they are academically prepared to succeed at the institution at which they have enrolled, and many of them performed well in high school. This mismatch is the subject of Expectations Meeting Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges, the latest report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE). The report also reveals differences between students’ expectations and the reality of time-to- completion rates and examines how faculty members approach placement and student preparation.
The CCCSE report does include some success stories and promising practices for helping students progress through developmental education and succeed in college, but many of these practices are still experienced by few students. The data are drawn from three surveys administered by CCCSE: the Survey of Entering Student Engagement, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, and the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement. The full report, including the methodology, is available online.
Gaps between Student Perceptions and Reality
- Eighty-six percent of community college students agree or strongly agree that they are academically prepared to succeed at the college where they have enrolled—but 68 percent of students are required take at least some developmental education.
- Thirty percent of students enrolled in developmental English and 37 percent of those enrolled in developmental math said that the course they were placed in was not appropriate for their skill level.
- Most students estimate they will complete their degrees much more quickly than the reality—61 percent of respondents said they expected to complete their academic goals in two years or less, and 76 percent said they were on track to complete their academic goals within their expected time frame.
- However, only 39 percent of community college students complete a degree or certificate within six years.
The Role of Faculty
- Seventy percent of faculty teaching developmental courses and 54 percent of faculty teaching non-developmental courses use early assessments to determine if their students are prepared to succeed in their courses.
- Only 4 percent of faculty report recommending that students enroll in a different course based on early assessments.
- Faculty are more likely to suggest students use academic support services such as tutoring (49 percent) or to adjust their pedagogy (34 percent) if students seem underprepared.
- While 66 percent of students report having a month or more notice before taking placement tests, only 41 percent report preparing for the tests using materials provided by the college—even though 96 percent of those who use the preparation materials find them helpful.
- Students who develop an academic plan with an advisor are more likely to complete developmental and introductory courses, but only 44 percent of students experience such advising.
- Students who take developmental courses and a college-level course concurrently are more likely to experience engaging practices such as active and collaborative learning and student-faculty interaction than those who took only developmental courses.
- However, only 40 percent of students have taken concurrent courses in English, and only 31 percent had taken concurrent courses in math.
Did You Know?
- Eighty-six percent of community college students think they are academically prepared, but 68 percent are placed in at least one developmental course.
- Faculty often use assessments to determine if their students are enrolled in the appropriate level course, but they rarely recommend students switch to a different level based on the assessment.
- Students often perform better when they make an academic plan with an advisor or take advanced courses concurrent current with developmental courses, but most students don’t engage in these practices.