tc columbia

Not Just Math and English: Courses That Pose Obstacles to Community College Completion

By: Matthew Zeidenberg, Davis Jenkins & Marc Scott


Discussions of the barriers to completion in community colleges have largely focused on student success in introductory college-level math and English courses, and rightfully so, since these courses are typically required for degrees. However, there is a much broader range of courses that also serve as “gatekeepers” in the sense that they are obstacles to completion.

This paper offers methods for identifying these courses and for assessing the relative extent of the obstacle to completion each of them poses. The authors compare the performance in these courses of students who successfully completed a credential with those who did not.

The authors find that the difficulty students experience in succeeding in many other introductory courses is just as great as that posed by college math and English, and that they pose just as large obstacles to completion. The authors also find that overall GPA in college courses is a stronger predictor of completion than performance in any single course. The paper concludes with recommendations for practitioners.

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Completion by Design