As a research and policy manager with Education Sector, an independent, nonpartisan think tank, Carey used results from the nationwide Community College Survey of Student Engagement survey along with federal graduation rates in ranking the community colleges. The CCSSE survey tests colleges on how well they use teaching techniques and student support services that have been proven to lead to better learning and student success, such as how often students collaborate with other students and interact with faculty.
“Our students have told us all along that we are good, but it’s great to be recognized now by the rest of the country,” said SCC President Cecil Groves. “We place value in this study since the research findings were objectively validated to assure accuracy and comparability of data.”
CCSSE uses five benchmarks in rating effective community colleges: active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student/faculty interaction and support for learners.
“In the survey Southwestern exceeds both the state and the national means in all five areas,” said Gene Couch, SCC vice president for instruction and student services. Christian Conway of Whittier, a 2007 SCC graduate with a 4.0 grade point average, credits the encouragement from Southwestern’s faculty and staff for receiving his associate degree in college transfer- and for changing his perspective on life.
“I have always had some academic potential,” Conway said. “But I want to say that potential is a lot easier to realize if you come across folks who care about you, stand beside you, and offer both support and challenge to do your best.”
While many major universities focus on research, community colleges are far more focused on teaching, Carey said. The roles of community colleges are expanding he pointed out in his Washington Monthly report. For students to succeed in the workforce they need to learn more than new skills, he said, emphasizing that students need to be able to learn continuously, to think critically, to adapt to a changing economy.
For the past two years Southwestern received Superior ratings from the North Carolina Community College System. SCC earned this distinction based on its achievement in the performance measures utilized by the General Assembly to assess state community colleges.