Center for Community College Student Engagement
The Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) was established in 2001. Functioning as a research and service initiative of the Community College Leadership Program at the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin, CCCSE's primary activities are: conducting major national survey operations, now including multiple surveys including the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (CCFSSE), and the Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE); establishing national benchmarks of effective educational practice in community colleges; providing related information and support services to participating institutions; conducting a program of research that will contribute significantly to the improvement of community college education; and influencing the national discourse on quality and accountability in undergraduate education.
The emerging agenda for American community colleges, with its focus on improving student success—and now, particularly certificate and degree completion in higher education—could hardly be more critical. With the emergence of this agenda comes a significantly increased demand for information about student learning, persistence and completion.
The Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) provides information about effective educational practice in community colleges and assists institutions and policymakers in using that information to promote improvements in student learning, persistence and attainment.
The overall goals that guide CCCSE's work are these:
- Conduct a national survey of community college student engagement that is appropriate for community college missions and student populations, empirically based, and methodologically sound.
- Augment the core survey with a "family" of related and complementary surveys, as well as focus group research, providing both quantitative and qualitative data that support and promote community colleges' efforts to improve student success.
- Promote understanding of the roles, contributions and challenges of community colleges in meeting the higher education needs of individuals, communities, and the society.
- Produce and disseminate national benchmarks of effective educational practice in community colleges, and support colleges in the internal and external benchmarking process.
- Provide service, tools and information resources that support community colleges in their work to improve programs and services for students.
- Conduct a research agenda that supports institutional improvement and contributes substantively to the literature on undergraduate education.
- Provide credible information and perspectives to inform media coverage and policy for public higher education.
- Promote a well-informed national discourse about quality and accountability in undergraduate education, giving emphasis to the central importance of student learning, persistence and attainment.
Survey Instruments: Meeting the Need for Actionable Data
Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE)
Launched as the community college sibling of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), CCSSE was envisioned as a potentially important resource for assessing and improving educational practice in community colleges – and for promoting accountability for student learning, retention, and attainment.
CCSSE, administered to community college students, asks questions that assess institutional practices and student behaviors that are correlated highly with student learning and student retention and are effective in three ways:
- Benchmarking instrument — establishing national norms on educational practice and performance by community and technical colleges;
- Diagnostic tool — identifying areas in which a college can enhance students' educational experiences;
- Monitoring device — documenting and improving institutional effectiveness over time.
CCSSE 2002-2011 participants represent 799 colleges from 49 states and the District of Columbia, plus Alberta, British Columbia, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec with a total enrollment of over 5,400,000.
From a public reporting perspective, CCSSE is the first and only survey of its kind to effectively capture the breadth and depth of data intrinsic to student engagement success outcomes. When data are public, and used responsibly, the impact can be dramatic. Consider CCSSE's current and potential future impact:
- Community colleges nationwide now have a reliable and appropriate tool for assessing institutional quality as it directly pertains to the student learning experience. Within their own campus communities, participating colleges are using the concrete feedback provided by the survey to identify and implement needed changes in policy and practice.
- CCSSE's national and consortium benchmarks make it possible for community colleges to compare their own performance and practice to that of other similar colleges.
- A significant number of states and community college systems have adopted CCSSE as part of statewide or system-level performance, quality improvement, and/or accountability systems.
- Many colleges are discovering the value of the survey as part of institutional self-study and quality improvement.
- Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have unprecedented opportunities to describe and analyze the performance of U.S. community colleges and their impact on students.
Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (CCFSSE)
Developed in response to demand from the community college field, the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (CCFSSE) elicits information from faculty about their perceptions regarding students' educational experiences, their teaching practices, and the ways they spend their professional time — both in and out of the classroom.
Offered as a companion to the CCSSE student survey, CCFSSE is an online census survey that invites faculty at participating colleges to contribute their front-line perspectives on student engagement. In this way, CCFSSE provides colleges with an effective way to invite faculty into a college-wide conversation about student engagement and success while spurring interest in their CCSSE survey results. CCFSSE (2005-2010) participants represent 391 colleges in 45 states, plus Bermuda, Marshall Islands. Northern Marianas with 49,297 faculty respondents. This is not unduplicated.
Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE)
Nationally, nearly 50% of entering students drop out before their second year. Other students stay in school, but struggle to complete developmental sequences.
SENSE helps community and technical colleges focus on the "front door" of the college experience. Grounded in research about what works in retaining and supporting entering students, SENSE collects and analyzes data about institutional practices and student behaviors in the earliest weeks of college. These data can help colleges understand students' critical early experiences and improve institutional practices that affect student success in the first college year. SENSE 2008-2010 participants represent 232 colleges from 37 states, the District of Columbia plus Marshall Islands and Mariana Islands with a total enrollment of 1,612,663.
- SENSE is administered during the fourth and fifth weeks of the fall academic term to students in courses randomly selected from those most likely to enroll entering students.
- Students respond to the survey in class, and member colleges receive survey reports including data and analysis they can use to improve their programs and services for entering students.
- Specifically, SENSE data should be useful in improving course completion rates and the rate at which students persist beyond the first term of enrollment.
Initiative on Student Success
The Initiative on Student Success, the qualitative arm of the Center, brings to life the community college experience by conducting focus groups and interviews with community college students, faculty, staff, and presidents. Hearing the voices behind survey numbers promotes deeper understanding of students' experiences and of colleges' efforts to strengthen student success.
Services to Colleges
- Onsite Training for Colleges, Consortia and State Systems. In addition to hosting an annual Center workshop in conjunction with the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) convention in Austin each May, CCCSE staff and associates travel nationwide to assist member colleges and states in interpreting and using survey results for improving student outcomes.
- Supporting Implementation of Evidence-Based Strategies for Entering Student Success. The Center's Entering Student Success Institute (ESSI) brings together teams from colleges that have participated in SENSE, helping them better understand and make productive use of their SENSE findings and other institutional data.