Student engagement leads to success at Cumberland County College


This fall, 4,291 students enrolled at Cumberland County College; the largest class in the college’s 44-year history. Enrollment has grown at CCC, and community colleges throughout America, because we offer quality education at a reasonable cost, close to home.

Over the years, community colleges have provided access to residents who want to better their lives through higher education. At CCC, more than 17,000 students have graduated and succeeded, professionally and as community leaders.

But even though we are a “friendly” college, many students have not graduated for a variety of reasons. There’s always the challenge of juggling job and family responsibilities with college studies. And many students get discouraged if they are not immediately successful, particularly if they have been out of school for a while.

That’s why – in addition to access - we are placing an emphasis on student retention and success. Six national community college associations signed a “call to action” that calls for community colleges to increase student completion rates by 50 percent over the next decade. We are making the same commitment to help our students achieve whatever educational goals brought them to our college.

The theme of my presidency is engage, inspire, transform. When people are engaged, they feel like they belong, and they are inspired to learn. And, consequently, their lives are transformed by education.

More than ever, we want students to feel like they belong at CCC. We want students to be active in group learning activities, sports, clubs and organizations on campus. Studies indicate that students tend to be more successful when they are engaged, regardless of their backgrounds. So the college is implementing new programs that will enhance our efforts to engage students and support their success.

The college opened the Center for Academic and Student Success this semester to provide students with a convenient access to an integrated system of support services. CCC has always offered an array of student services, but CASS brings them together in a common place. CASS counselors assist students in developing their skills and interests as they progress toward their academic goals, and overcome any barriers to success they may be experiencing. The center offers career and four-year college transfer counseling as well as services for returning adult students.

To engage our students, the college is looking into ways remedial courses are taught. As part of the process, the college has obtained a $40,000 developmental mathematics grant to implement individualized, self-paced modules for students to use to master lessons online, with the assistance of instructors.

To further engage our students, the college received a $2 million federal Title III grant to help improve student retention, persistence and graduation rates. This grant will enable the college to offer additional student success programs and install a new college-wide computer system that will literally change the way the college does business in just about every area. The Web-based computer system will enhance communications in areas such as admissions, financial aid and academics.

We are certainly excited about the college’s growth because it is intertwined with the community’s growth. When our students graduate, they provide essential professional services at schools, hospitals and agencies in the county. That’s why we are committed to balancing access with student engagement and success at Cumberland County College.