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 Background Information 

The initial concept for developing a survey directed specifically at community college students evolved out of conversations at the Fall 1997 AACC Commission on Research meeting. In early 1998, AACC presented ACT a proposal to partner with AACC and develop this survey instrument. The concept was relatively simple. ACT, with their experience in developing, administering, and analyzing survey instruments, would partner with AACC to develop an annual survey to assess the current state of the "community college population." In the initial proposal, the following areas were identified:

  • Access and Purpose -- Reasons students have for deciding to attend a community college class, the factors that make it difficult for them to attend and/or continue their studies, and the ways colleges address those barriers.
  • Learning and Satisfaction -- Measurement of student expectations for service from the college and perceptions of whether those expectations have been met.
  • Expected Outcome and Intent -- Assessment of educational goals, plans to earn a credential, and the personal benefits enjoyed by students beyond those captured by the traditional measures of degree attainment and advancement through the educational pipeline.
  • Transitions -- Perceptions of the way study at the community college facilitates life transitions, such as movement into employment, career changes, advancement to university work, etc.

ACT completely funded the first year of the project. AACC created an advisory panel including college presidents and representatives from student services, continuing education/workforce development, and institutional research. The panel met in October 1998 and developed a laundry list of items to be included on the survey that would be useful for administrators wishing to know about both credit and non-credit student populations.

After ACT and AACC refined the survey instrument, ten colleges were selected to participate in a pilot test of the survey. The selected colleges reflected the diversity of community colleges, and the potential difficulties presented by different types of colleges. A comparison of the data across the seven years indicates the instrument is quite stable across all of the administrations.

Research findings from the surveys and an analysis of the reasons students use community colleges are available as a research brief on the web. More reports should be available in the near future.

AACC Staff

  • Laura Keck, Research Associate
  • Kent Phillippe, Senior Research Associate
  • Margaret Rivera, Vice President for Membership & Information Services

ACT Staff

  • Jon Erickson, Vice President Educational Services
  • Tamera McKinniss, Research Associate Educational & Social Research
  • Randy McClanahan, Senior Research Associate, Educational & Social Research
  • Vi Bitterman, Faces Program Coordinator
  • Mike Valiga, Director Educational & Social Research
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