How the First Semester Matters for Community College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence
A new PACE Policy Brief by Anne Driscoll of the University of California at Davis explains why California must do more than expand access to community college if our state is to prepare the workforce needed to remain economically competitive in the 21st century. Beyond Access: How the First Semester Matters for Community College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence shows that fewer than half of the young high school graduates who entered California community colleges with the goal of transferring to four-year colleges in 1998 made it through their first semester with their goals intact. One quarter of these young people did not return for the second semester, and barely half of those who returned still planned to transfer to four-year schools. Approximately 40 percent of those who aspired to transfer to four-year colleges when they entered community college ultimately achieved their goal. Driscoll’s analysis illuminates the decisive importance of the first semester in students’ post-secondary academic careers, and suggests that providing additional guidance and support to students as they enter college for the first time could yield big dividends in terms of student persistence and eventual transfer.