How to Improve Completion

While there’s a lot of debate about the reasons students so often fail to complete college, one school has an idea for a way to combat the problem: yet another class.

According to an article by Joanne Jacobs at Community College Spotlight:

California may require low-skilled community college students to take a “success course” that teaches study skills and “college knowledge” reports EdSource Extra. The California Community College’s Student Success Task Force recommended non-credit student success courses as a strategy to improve graduation rates, but didn’t specify whether the classes should be recommended or required.

Basically the way the course is suppose to work is that, by making study skills a part of the curriculum, all students will be able to acquire the skills they need, even if they might not comfortable asking for help directly.

Leaving aside the patronizing title of the course (“success” should be assumed, not an add-on for those deemed likely to fail), something about this seems a little off. The California Community College’s Student Success Task Force recommends offering a study skills course, but isn’t sure the course should be mandatory.

Evidence indicates, however, that offering a voluntary course is basically a waste of money. The only evidence offered, from MDRC, indicated that a voluntary program for students on academic probation at one college had no effect on student completion. When the course was mandatory, however, it showed “large and significant” results.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer