Research in Higher Education

, Volume 49, Issue 8, pp 704–732 | Cite as

Cooling Out in the Community College: What is the Effect of Academic Advising on Students’ Chances of Success?

  • Peter Riley BahrEmail author


Burton Clark’s proposition concerning the cooling out of underprepared students in community colleges has a controversial history and remains a point of contention. Central to Clark’s description of the cooling out process is the academic counselor, whose job it is to dissuade underprepared students from goals perceived to be overambitious and ease these students into lesser, presumably better-fitting academic trajectories. In this study, I test a number of hypotheses concerning the effect of advising on students’ chances of attaining their goals. I seek to determine what effect advising has on students’ attainment, and whether this effect is dependent upon students’ academic preparation, students’ race/ethnicity, the racial/ethnic composition of the college, or the representation of underprepared students in the college. I use hierarchical discrete-time event history analysis to analyze data that address two subsets of the Fall 1995 cohort of first-time freshmen who enrolled in any of California’s 107 semester-based community colleges. I find that advising is actively beneficial to students’ chances of success, and all the more so for students who face academic deficiencies, which contradicts deductions drawn from Clark’s description of the active role of counselors in the cooling out process.


Cooling out Advising Counseling Transfer Remediation Remedial education Developmental education Mathematics Race Inequality Community college Racial composition Skill composition Context Event history analysis 



I am indebted to Tim Brown, Willard Hom, Myrna Huffman, Tom Nobert, Mary Kay Patton, and Patrick Perry of the California Community College Chancellor’s Office for their assistance with the data employed in this study. I thank Elisabeth Bahr for her assistance with the editing of this manuscript. Finally, I am grateful to John C. Smart and the anonymous referees of Research in Higher Education for their respective recommendations concerning improving this work. This research was supported by a grant from the Association for Institutional Research and the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (AIR Grant #528). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2007 Forum of the Association for Institutional Research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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