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Community Colleges

Research Project to Explore Role of Libraries and Student Support Services in CCs

students meeting in college library

Starting in November, a research firm will begin the first survey in a series intended to help community college library leaders, chief academic officers and others learn about the barriers their students run into as they attempt to access the library or other support services. Thanks to a $450,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Ithaka S+R will undertake the study to help two-year colleges improve their institutional practices and raise their success rate. Currently, according to the organization, among the 38 percent of higher education students enrolled in community colleges, far less than half (37.5 percent) earn a degree from either a two- or four-year school within six years of starting.

The Community College Academic Support Ecosystems (CCASE) project, as it's called, will examine three areas:

  • What types of academic support services community colleges need;
  • How academic support services are currently organized, funded and staffed and how those aspects influence opportunities and challenges; and
  • How the school library can best be structured to develop and sustain programs or services that contribute to success.

First, beginning next month Ithaka researchers will perform a national survey of chief academic officers to gain an understanding of the value of the support services their institutions provide. Next, other people on campus will be surveyed and researchers will make a series of site visits to engage with stakeholders, including students. Finally, a national survey of library directors will examine the role college libraries play as part of academic support. The project, which will last for three years, is expected to produce several forms of output: four "major publications," interim public reports, blogging, presentations, social media engagement and an interactive workshop.

"While the audience for this project is community college leaders," the researchers wrote in their proposal, "the beneficiaries of the project are, ultimately, students. This project will translate research on students' needs into actionable recommendations that will enable community college leaders to respond to those needs."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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