BLOG: Measuring What Matters

Measuring What Matters

The definition of student success in community college goes beyond securing a degree or certificate or achieving a personal goal. It also means improved skills, better employability, and economic growth for families, communities, and our nation as a whole. A new report and a new national initiative focus on broadening the definition of community college success to provide a more complete picture of the true impact that community colleges have on their graduates and on their communities.

Our report, Measuring What Matters, explores the extent to which community colleges dedicated to student success make a significant difference in the lives of their graduates after college, using new indicators of success developed by Gallup.

The study was conducted by Gallup with support from Strada Education Network, and shows that institutions affiliated with Achieving the Dream are outpacing peer institutions not associated with the reform network when it comes to helping more students get better jobs, live better lives, and have good experiences in college. Graduates of colleges affiliated with ATD are more likely to be “thriving” defined as well-being that is strong and consistent in a particular aspect of life on measures of:

  • Purpose or liking what they do each day and being motivated to achieve their goals (48% for ATD colleges vs. 35% at other community colleges).
  • Financial well-being or managing their economic life to reduce stress and increase security (32% vs. 19% respectively).
  • Social well-being or having strong and supportive relationships and love in your life (47% to 36% respectively).
  • Community well-being or liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community (39% to 30% respectively).

The study also reveals that students at these institutions are thriving and that low-income students and students of color expressed rates of satisfaction and thriving at identical rates as white students, which is a crucial goal of ATD colleges.
According to the study, graduates from colleges in the ATD Network are engaged at work regardless of their income status, age, or first -eneration status. According to the report:

  • 42% of low-income ATD graduates are engaged vs. 43% of non-low-income ATD alumni;
  • 42% of adult learners are engaged vs. 44% of younger students; and,
  • 43% of first-generation students are engaged vs. 44% of non-first-generation students.

The report also shows that within ATD colleges, students of color are “thriving” across areas of well-being at similar rates to white students. Hispanic and Asian alumni are most likely to be thriving in at least four elements of well-being (24% and 23%, respectively), followed by black (20%) and white alumni (20%). Students of color reported having an “excellent” experience at their community college at similar or slightly higher percentages than their white counterparts. Hispanic alumni (52%) and black alumni (51%) are the most likely to say their experience was excellent. Nearly half of white alumni and Asian alumni (47% and 46%, respectively) say the same.

Overall, students at ATD affiliated colleges also clearly have a positive experience. Nearly nine in 10 ATD graduates (88%) rate their college experience as “good” or “excellent.”  Meanwhile, nearly three of every five graduates of ATD colleges (57%) strongly agree their education was worth the cost. This was true regardless of income, first-generation status or race with Black and Hispanic graduates most likely to strongly agree their education was worth the cost (61% and 62%, respectively).

The report examines survey results of associate degree holders at 15 Achieving the Dream colleges in five states (Indiana, Texas, Florida, Virginia and Tennessee) compared with Gallup’s national sample of associate degree holders. It provides ATD and its Network colleges with important insights on the impact of their efforts to make their policies and practices student-centered—from a student’s first interaction with the college through completion to work and beyond.

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