Tallahassee Community College: Community Connections Become Part of Developmental Studies Strategy

Carmy Greenwood
Member Spotlight

Tallahassee Community College (TCC) has been awarded funding from Campus Compact to pilot a program designed to help community college students stay in school and ultimately graduate. The opportunity has excited faculty and staff of the college, which serves more than 15,000 students in Florida's capital city.

"This builds directly on what we are already doing to support college completion," said TCC President Jim Murdaugh.

We opened our Learning Commons in 2008 to provide targeted academic assistance, and we've consistently found that students who use those resources are more successful in the classroom. Then, we redesigned our developmental studies curriculum to increasingly focus on relevance and transfer of skills, engagement with content and time-on-task, and integration of out-of-class supports.

The payoff has been better outcomes for students. In spring 2011, students who completed developmental courses had a higher success rate than those who placed directly into initial college-credit English and mathematics courses.

Those successes help explain why TCC's application to Campus Compact was a success. Campus Compact is a coalition of nearly 1,200 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. The group received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Connect2Complete (C2C) initiative, which will benefit students in developmental education and Pell Grant-eligible students, who are more likely to struggle to complete college. The C2C grant will fund pilots at three community colleges in each of three states: Florida, Ohio, and Washington. The pilot programs are expected to develop innovative community engagement and peer advocacy strategies that other community colleges can replicate to help their own students graduate and take their place in the 21st century economy.

Beginning this year, low-income students enrolled in TCC's developmental courses will be invited to participate in C2C. They will form learning communities with classmates, peer advocates, faculty, and staff. Work-study students who have demonstrated academic success and a commitment to service will be recruited as peer advocates. Training for these student leaders will focus on campus and community resources, group processes, mentoring skills, and leadership development.

Peer advocates will help students develop the behaviors, skills, and strategies necessary for academic success and will foster a sense of community and commitment to service. They will encourage students to take responsibility for their learning through regular attendance, class preparation and participation, and effective classroom skills. Peer advocates will also help students define goals, connect with resources, balance life challenges, and complete their individual learning plans. Peer advocates and C2C students will participate together in activities and service projects that connect them to each other and to the community in which they live and work.

According to Sally Search, Dean of the Division of Academic Support, the hope is that C2C students will evolve into leaders themselves, building an ongoing pool of potential peer advocates to sustain the program.

Contact: Sally Search, Dean, Academic Support