Skip to content

Technology can boost student success at community colleges, report says


Community colleges stand as the only or the last chance for millions of students, but too few of those students actually earn a post-secondary credential. Of students who started a public, two-year college in 2006, only about 36 percent had obtained a credential by 2012.

A new report, “Community College Online,” by New America’s Education Policy Program examines ways technology and institutional reforms can improve: content delivery, student support, transfers and credential attainment.

Enhanced use of technology, the report says, should enable all students to take two courses per semester year-round – including summer session – to enhance their progress.

“Community college students should not have to struggle through a system that was designed around face-to-face education at a physical location,” says author Rachel Fishman. To meet their needs and schedules, students should be able to mix “face-to-face courses, hybrid courses that blend online with face-to-face or competency-based courses.”

This flexibility is particularly important for community college students. Compared to their counterparts at four-year institutions, community college students tend to be older, and are more likely to commute to school, work part time and care for dependents.

Released today, the report also recommends new federal, state and college policies to promote a more flexible learning model.

The policy recommendations, which range widely in scale, include:

  • Reform the financial aid system to make Pell Grants available year-round, including through the summer.
  • Provide financial aid for students taking a mix of competency-based and “seat-time” courses.
  • Make it easier for students to transfer credits when changing institutions.

New America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

“Community College Online” was funded by Kresge’s Education Program. Kresge works to expand opportunities for vulnerable people living in America’s cities. Its Education Program promotes post-secondary access and success for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students.