Defining Student Success

What does student success mean? Wow! When my colleague and friend, George Covino, asked me to write a blog on that topic, my first thought was graduation! Yes, graduation is a high point for a student and for me as a financial aid professional. The student completed her/his academic goal. Graduation night, Pomp and Circumstance, academic regalia, and the ceremony – conference of the degree; such a special night, the air is electric with pride and purpose.  

Then, as I thought further, from a community college perspective, it also is a high point for those students who have completed transfer programs, returned to college for retraining, to complete a certificate, or for professional licensure. The students who come to a community college for basic skills or remediation, or for English as a Second Language? These are also a measure of success that is overlooked and not used in our completion ratios or accountability measures by state and federal governments. These areas are huge measures of student success but also indicators of community involvement and preparation of students who transfer to universities.

How sad and discouraging, the “community” portion of community college is not included in success measures. By community, I’m referring to those in our communities that rely on the community colleges for continuance and enhancement of their education, not just the degree- or transfer-seeking student. Business leaders look to the community colleges to provide industry-specific training – not just an A.A. or A.S. degree; community colleges are building economies thus improving our communities. This is the largest measure of our success.

In my mind, student success is not the academic or accountability measures currently used, but defined by the impact that an institution has on the lives of its community members. 

Melissa Moser is executive director, financial aid & Title IV compliance for Pima Community College in Tuscon, Ariz.