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Toward a New Understanding of Non-Academic Student Support: Four Mechanisms Encouraging Positive Student Outcomes in the Community College (Assessment of Evidence Series)

By: Melinda Mechur Karp


Despite their best efforts, community colleges continue to see low rates of student persistence and degree attainment, particularly among academically vulnerable students. While low persistence and degree attainment can be attributed in large part to students' academic readiness, non-academic issues also play a part. This paper examines programs and practices that work to address the non-academic needs of students. 

A review of the literature on non-academic support yields evidence of four mechanisms by which such supports can improve student outcomes: (1) creating social relationships, (2) clarifying aspirations and enhancing commitment, (3) developing college know-how, and (4) addressing conflicting demands of work, family and college. Identifying these mechanisms allows for a deeper understanding of promising interventions and the conditions that may lead students to become integrated into college life. 

Each of these mechanisms can occur within a variety of programs, structures, or even informal interactions. The paper concludes by discussing implications for community colleges. 

A brief of this paper, How Non-Academic Supports Work: Four Mechanisms for Improving Student Outcomes, is available for download.

Associated Project(s):

Assessment of Evidence Series