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New England Journal of Higher Education, v24 n2 p12-16 Fall 2009

President Obama recently asked community colleges across the nation to take on a central role in his economic policy by awarding 5 million new associate degrees over the next decade. Those familiar with community college data know this is a daunting task for the nation's public two-year college system. In order to meet the challenge, the nation's community colleges will have to shift their focus from access to retention and ultimately graduation. Success at retention means understanding the diverse nature and needs of the entering freshman cohort at different institutions and organizing programs of study and services designed to bolster degree completion among entering students. Community colleges are in the business of serving large numbers of students with a variety of disabilities, but their knowledge of these students--who they are or even how many of them are enrolled--is often quite limited. Understanding the characteristics of the student body, particularly their disability status, and conducting research on the strategies that successfully retain these students will go a long way toward designing successful retention strategies. (Contains 2 figures.)

Descriptors: Community Colleges, Graduation, Associate Degrees, Self Advocacy, Disabilities, Special Needs Students, Academic Persistence, School Holding Power, Student Needs, Student Diversity, Access to Education, High School Graduates

New England Board of Higher Education. 45 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111. Tel: 617-357-9620; Fax: 617-338-1577; e-mail: connection[at]; Web site:

Autor: Fogg, Neeta P.; Harrington, Paul E.


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