I recently met with several great leaders at the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees Conference. In particular, Terry O’Banion, author and former president of the League for Innovation in the Community College, shared what really works to help students succeed at America’s Community Colleges.

First, a few daunting numbers. The community college completion problems are real with 14% of students who enroll not completing a single credit hour and 50% dropping out after the first year.

The good news is that after years of research we know many strategies for making a difference.

Key Takeaways From This Year’s Event

  1. Relationships matter
    Make a significant personal connection for students with another person at the college as soon as possible.
  2. Start strong
    Orient students with mandatory intake programs including orientation, assessment, advising and placement.
  3. Identify skills
    Assess student knowledge and even soft skills including motivation, hope and, my personal favorite, GRIT. As Terry O’Banion put it, “if you have enough GRIT, you need a whole lot less smarts.”
  4. Start somewhere
    Enroll every student in a program of study. If they don’t know, enroll them in a class that focuses on figuring it out.
  5. Identify trouble early
    Carefully monitor students to ensure successful progress. If an assignment is missed, catch it early.
  6. Have a plan
    Work with students to map out a detailed plan for completion.


Making a Difference with Building Design

So, what does this mean for your facilities? What we know is that effective learning is not just about the classroom and that these ideas translate into innovative building design that makes a difference.

INVISION is completing a campus facilities master plan which addresses these challenges at one of our partner campuses. The campus renovation plan develops a new Student Success Center located at the front door of campus to group key resources around an active learning commons. This is about developing a strong core for campus. It centralizes resources available for a variety of student needs in one location, including faculty support, academic coaching, counselors, advisors, testing, orientation, learning center, student life, placement and many others. This is about serving students as they enter, and creating connections that ensure progress and completion.

How are you making a difference and helping students finish what they start?

We’d love to hear about the trends you are seeing and new strategies to support effective learning in America’s Community Colleges. Comment below to share.