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Holistic Student Supports

Strategic Partnerships for Holistic Student Supports Toolkit

Research & Reports
December 2, 2022
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Students attending community and technical colleges juggle many different roles and obligations, and face challenges that may affect their ability to be successful in higher education. Institutions that take a holistic approach to student services can help students manage these challenges and reach their goals. By creating strategic partnerships with external organizations, colleges can increase their capacity to meet the diverse needs of their students and build strong, vibrant communities.

ATD’s Strategic Partnerships for Holistic Student Supports Toolkit is designed to support colleges through the process of developing, implementing, and maintaining strong partnerships that help students, families, and communities thrive.


“Indirect” college attendance costs outside of tuition and fees — such as access to food, housing, child care, and transportation — represent 60–80 percent of the total cost to attend college and can be prohibitive for many students. Work, family commitments, course schedules, and transportation are also major concerns for many students — and can be barriers to enrolling in college in the first place.

To close opportunity gaps and create equitable outcomes for all students, community and technical colleges must take a holistic approach to student services and supports. (Read more: (Holistic Student Supports Redesign: A Toolkit.)

Building a holistic student supports model that enhances what the college already offers requires looking outside the college to leverage and expand community partnerships. Partners may be community-based organizations, nonprofits, other educational institutions, businesses, industry, or government institutions.

When partnerships provide mutual benefit to the college and its partner institutions in service to a shared vision and goals, the results can be transformative for the institutions, and life-changing for the students and community members they serve.

Strategic Partnerships for Holistic Student Supports Toolkit

This toolkit provides a guided process for community and technical colleges to engage with partners and develop meaningful, effective holistic supports that help students achieve their personal, academic, and career goals.

Download the Toolkit

Download the Executive Summary

The Strategic Partnerships for Holistic Student Supports Toolkit was informed by ATD’s ongoing work with ATD Network colleges as well as insights from interviews with leaders from eight diverse community and technical colleges of various sizes from across the country.

These eight colleges have accomplished measurable and impactful results in providing holistic students supports through community partnerships, including during the unprecedented interruption to education, work, and life caused by the coronavirus pandemic from early 2020 to the time of publication.

We hope that the values that ground this work, the narratives and stories from institutions, and the structures and process outlined below, will help college leaders maximize their community partnerships in service to their students and the people of their community.

Make it your own

ATD has developed an accompanying workbook to help college teams plan for and implement meaningful community partnerships to expand holistic student supports. Designed to be used alongside the Strategic Partnerships for Holistic Student Supports Toolkit, the workbook takes teams through six steps for developing, implementing, and maintaining effective partnerships.

  1. Student Needs Assessment
  2. Identify What It Will Entail for Students’ Needs to Be Met
  3. Assess Partnership Landscape
  4. Conduct a SWOT Analysis
  5. Design and Build Partnerships for Holistic Supports
  6. Measure Success and Plan for Continuous Improvement
Download the Workbook
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