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Exploring definitions of student success throughout community colleges in the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities Public Deposited

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  • The topic of student success is beginning to grow in popularity throughout the United States. Student success has a wide variety of definitions ranging from a direct definition of graduation to an indirect definition of a student setting a goal of finishing a class successfully. Now there are stakeholders such as government agencies, administrators, students, community members, instructors, taxpayers, and student services employees who are asking for increasing accountability for student success from the community colleges in the United States. Unfortunately, there is no consensus concerning the definition of student success. This research investigated the core themes of student success in Community College institutions in the State of Oregon who are accredited with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The study employed a Delphi method to survey seven groups of stakeholders for the Oregon State community colleges. The stakeholder groups included: (a) Instructors, (b) VP, Executive Deans, and Presidents, (c) Board members, (d) Students, (e) Community, (f) NWCCU, and (g) Student Services, Staff. Three rounds using the Delphi survey with respondents found 16 core themes of community college student success. These themes ranged from (a) moving the student toward their goals whatever they may be and (b) applying knowledge of subject matter to (c) learning to access appropriate sources of information (i.e. research skills). They were further consolidated into seven overarching constellations: (a) Thinking, (b) Abilities, (c) Goals, (d) Skills, (e) Application, (f) Completion, and (g) Learned Information. The study was undertaken for several reasons. The first reason revolves around the issue of accountability. There cannot be accountability for student success among community colleges without a rationale for a thorough definition for student success at those institutions. This study provides the starting point for other researchers and/or policy makers to build an overarching definition of student success. Having a clear and concise definition of student success will enable the institutions to assess themselves so that they can report their outcomes to the stakeholders who are demanding more accountability.
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