Nine million students enroll in community colleges each year, but only about one fourth graduates in a timely fashion. Identifying factors associated with student success is of critical importance to students, colleges, and the nation. For this research, I examine factors associated with students’ sense of belonging that lead to student retention, an important indicator of success. Through the analysis of two sources of data—national findings from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement and qualitative research at three community colleges—I present a framework for understanding community college students’ sense of belonging. When defining belonging, students emphasize the importance of connecting with others and the comfort associated with fitting in, sharing experiences, and knowing others’ names. Students value communication with professors and peers and the commonalities of shared race, ethnicity or language. For some, belonging relates strictly to their commitment to secure a good education. More than demographic or academic attributes, students’ interactions with their peers and faculty are correlated with a strong sense of belonging. Students who frequently work with classmates on projects in or outside of class report high levels of belonging. Similarly, students with strong relationships with faculty or administrators have a strong sense of belonging. Faculty members can nurture students’ belonging through a circular hub-and-spoke model, fostering inclusive environments among students, or through a linear model, mentoring individual students. By creating spaces that facilitate opportunities for students to gather, colleges can strengthen students’ sense of belonging. While the positive outcomes associated with building communities are abundant, assorted factors can function as detractors from belonging, including students’ competing priorities, in-group versus out-group animus, exclusivity, and some students’ reluctance to integrate into the college community. Students’ belonging is positively correlated with higher college satisfaction and with willingness to recommend their college to others. Once a sense of community is fostered, students collaborate with each other and with the faculty more often, spend more time engaged with the academic material, and achieve their educational goals more efficiently.
|Commitee:||Kaplan, Eric, Gaba, Barbara, Eynon, Diane|
|School:||University of Pennsylvania|
|Department:||Higher Education Management|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Higher education, Higher Education Administration, Community college education|
|Keywords:||Community, Engagement, Faculty, Peer, Sense of belonging, Student success|
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