As a recent article in the Community College Times noted, a huge problem facing community college students today is simply not knowing what programs to take. Confusion over the giant spread of options often leads to students taking the wrong courses or, worse, giving up on college altogether. “She gave me a list of general things that I can pick from,” said one student in a focus group at Macomb Community College (MCC) in Michigan. “It was such a big list that I didn’t really know where to start.”
MCC decided to address this problem for its 48,000 students by asking the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York to help. CCRC hosted focus groups and conducted surveys among the students. The resulting study, “Navigating a Sea of Choices: The Community College Student Perspective” (which was presented at the 93rd annual AACC convention in Washington, D.C., last month), essentially told MCC what they already knew: a huge variety of programs to choose from can work — if the students know what their goals are.
“When you have a large comprehensive community college, you have a large, diverse array of students, so you have a large array of programs,” said Shanna Smith Jaggers, senior research associate at CCRC and co-author of the report. “That’s fine when students know what they want to do; it’s problematic when they don’t.”
The study also offered recommendations for improving the system: Simplify program offerings so students are given less complex choices. Teach students how to self-advise so that they know which programs they need to reach their career of choice. Bottom line, begin with the students: “Schools may find it helpful to leverage their best source of information: the students themselves.”
We couldn’t agree more. This is a perfect application for EMSI’s Career Coach, which addresses the problem of program confusion by giving students the right data in an easy online format. By revealing the jobs that are doing well in a college’s region and demonstrating how the school’s programs can prepare them for those jobs, Career Coach is a huge boost for students looking for a clear pathway to the career world. Read the story of how Miami Dade College uses the tool to help their students cultivate a career vision.