Pathways to College Degree Are Diverse, Ever-Changing

When you think of the daily routine of a typical college student, do you envision rising before the sun to prepare kids for school, followed by a full day of work and then night classes? Do you envision a part-time schedule of classes that allows the student to support their family along the way? Do you think of a student whose parents never attended college? For the majority of community college students nationwide, this is reality.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), community colleges serve close to half of the undergraduate students in the United States, and since 1985, more than half of all community college students have been women. The majority of black and Hispanic undergraduate students in this country study at community colleges. The AACC statistics indicate that the average age of a community college student is 29, and two-thirds attend part-time.

At Waubonsee, our credit student profile reflects this national data. For the first semester of this academic year, more than half of our students were first generation college students whose parents did not earn an associate or higher degree. Slightly more than half of our students are female and 29.3 percent are Hispanic/Latino. The average age of Waubonsee students enrolled in credit courses is 24, and for noncredit enrollment, 44-years-old. (Our non-credit offerings include community education and workforce development courses). Sixty-seven percent, or two-thirds, of our nearly 10,000 credit students were enrolled part-time this fall, meaning they registered for less than 12 hours of credits per semester.

We have been researching critical student success factors since 2013. One of our key findings is that – contrary to popular belief – enrolling full-time is not the main indicator for success. Our data indicate that completing the credits enrolled for in a specific semester – no matter how many or few - is one of the biggest drivers of retention.

We know that many of our efforts to respond to changing student needs are working. We’ve seen our degree and certificate completers increase by 71 percent over the last seven years.

Today’s diverse learners require a range of support services creating lifetime connections, flexible and creative scheduling options, and personalized credentialing choices to successfully navigate their varied academic pathways. Waubonsee Community College is investing in ongoing research through our data warehouse and our recent community conversations through our Vision 2050 project to further anticipate and promote student success at any stage of life.