A small, rural community college in the Mississippi Delta region, Coahoma Community College (CCC) serves a county with one of the nation’s highest poverty rates. The college — one of only 15 community colleges in the country designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) — has a long tradition of going above and beyond to serve their community. But when the opportunity to join the Achieving the Dream (ATD) Network came around in 2018, the college jumped at the chance. The opportunity to learn from peer institutions steeped in their own student success work and receive tailored coaching from experts in data and leadership offered CCC the support they needed to take a more systemic approach to improving student outcomes.
Gathering data to identify opportunities
The college began by working with their ATD coaches to assess how student-focused their campus was using ATD’s Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT) in conjunction with student outcome data. Stakeholders from across the college were given the opportunity to share their perspective through the ICAT and analyze the results during a three-hour workshop facilitated by their ATD coaches.
The process resulted in the identification of two aspects of the student experience the college would focus on improving in their work with ATD: new student orientation and advising.
The impact of data on new student orientation
ATD coaches connected the CCC team with resources and peers at ATD Network colleges that could share insights on how to design an effective orientation course. Staff redesigned the orientation curriculum as an eight-week course with a focus on connecting students to campus resources and offered the class both in-person and online — an option which helped students stay connected after the COVID-19 pandemic closed the campus in early 2020.
This revised orientation approach is continually assessed to ensure it remains effective in supporting new students, an indication of how the college has worked to build a culture of evidence. The college’s data team worked with their ATD data coach to build dashboards that track key performance indicators for students based on whether the orientation they attended was in-person or online. These dashboards track key student momentum and success metrics and are made available to everyone at the college.
The dashboards show their efforts are paying off. The persistence rate for first time ever in college (FTEIC) students rose from 64 percent in fall 2019 to 75 percent in fall 2020.
In addition to redesigning advising and orientation, the college attributes their success to seven additional strategies:
- Increase faculty and staff approachability by providing adequate contact information for advisors and advertise faculty office hours.
- Increase student involvement and student connections by supporting campus club memberships and other extracurricular activities.
- Coordinate a monthly counseling calendar of activities encompassing academic, social, emotional, and financial topics.
- Facilitate a support system that will increase faculty recording attendance on a consistent basis.
- Increase student engagement through SMS text messaging platform.
- Coordinate student success initiatives and enrollment campaigns in conjunction with Project Success.
- Enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of advising efforts by providing more professional development opportunities.
As CCC continues its transformative data journey with ATD, its newly enacted strategic plan includes an explicit focus on enhancing teaching and learning, including creating a Center for Success in Teaching and Learning, providing more professional development and support to faculty implementing high-impact practices in the classroom, and supporting efforts to build a culture of evidence and inquiry. The college will continue to reinforce the use of data in decisions made in all areas of their work, including the development of their new strategic plan that will outline their vision for the next phase of their work.
Coahoma Community College and ATD
This case study details how the college’s students and its community benefited from participation in ATD’s Foundations of Transformation engagement, and outlines lessons learned that other institutions can benefit from.Download the case study