Community College Women Succeed Initiative Update

Attendees at February’s DREAM Conference for Dr. Jill Biden’s announcement of the Community College Women Succeed initiative came away inspired by her words and convinced that the success of women students – many of whom are parents – is critical to our work in community colleges. Through Community College Women Succeed, the Biden Foundation and Achieving the Dream committed to work to identify and promote effective strategies to help adult women succeed in community college.

In late April, when Joe Biden announced his run for president, the Biden Foundation announced that it would be suspending operations. We’re grateful to Dr. Biden and the Biden Foundation for their initial support and we’re looking forward to continuing the work.

In the days and months following the announcement at DREAM, ATD jumped into the work in a number of ways:

  • We held focus groups to begin to learn about the gaps and promising practices within community colleges. The first set was while we were in Long Beach, California, for the DREAM convening. We held a student focus group at Los Angeles Harbor College and conducted a focus group with community college faculty, administrators, and staff who were attending DREAM. In May, a focus group was held at Northampton Community College, an Achieving the Dream Leader College in Pennsylvania
  • Coming out of those student focus groups, we’ve produced a series of student testimonial videos that elevate the student voice and lift up the message of increasing persistence in and completion of community college for adult women learners. These videos highlight powerful stories of women’s success in community college.
  • We developed a Community College Women Succeed Discussion Guide as a companion piece to the student testimonial videos for colleges to use to guide conversations on their own campuses. You’ll see the student videos and Dr. Karen Stout’s introductory Community College Women Succeed video on our social media platforms and on our YouTube Channel.

In early April, we hosted the first of a series of meetings with key stakeholders in which we discussed the initiative work to date and talked with them about their engagement in the work and our plans for next steps. We’ll be hosting similar meetings in the future with additional stakeholders who have a passion for this important work.

We’re keeping this work moving forward on many fronts. We’re releasing the next set of student videos and discussion guide throughout the summer months. And in August, we’ll be reaching out to Network colleges to ask about specific steps your college may have taken in order to help adult women succeed, and we’re interested in hearing individual stories of success. Your input will help us frame the next phase of the initiative. We’re also beginning to develop resources for colleges to use to provoke introspection, goal setting, planning, and dialog.

The numbers show why this work is necessary. The average age of community college students is 28 years. Analysis completed by Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows nearly four million student parents attend college, most (70 percent) are women.  More than a quarter of all community college students are parents, and significant barriers prevent many of them from graduating college and reaching their potential. These students can benefit from supports such as financial aid, housing assistance, and child care in order to graduate and take the next step in life. When women graduate, they thrive. Single mothers who earn an associate degree and work full-time earn an average of $8,000 more annually than their peers with a high school diploma.

ATD is thankful to our Network colleges for the work they do to help community college women and all students succeed.

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