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An Empirical Typology of the Latent Programmatic Structure of Community College Student Success Programs

Abstract

The definition and description of student success programs in the literature (e.g., orientation, first-year seminars, learning communities, etc.) suggest underlying programmatic similarities. Yet researchers to date typically depend on ambiguous labels to delimit studies, resulting in loosely related but separate research lines and few generalizable findings. To demonstrate whether or how certain programs are effective there is need for more coherent conceptualizations to identify and describe programs. This is particularly problematic for community colleges where success programs are uniquely tailored relative to other sectors. The study’s purpose is to derive an empirical typology of community college student success programs based on their curricular and programmatic features. Data come from 1047 success programs at 336 U.S.-based respondents to the Community College Institutional Survey. Because programs might be characterized by their focus in different curricular areas and combinations of foci, we used factor mixture modeling, a hybrid of factor analysis and latent class analysis, which provides a model-based classification method that simultaneously accounts for dimensional and categorical data structures. Descriptive findings revealed extensive commonalities among nominal program types. Inferential analysis revealed five factors (types) of program elements, combined in unique ways among four latent program types: success skills programs, comprehensive programs, collaborative academic programs, and minimalist programs. We illustrate how the typology deconstructs nominal categories, may help unify different bodies of research, and affords a common framework and language for researchers and practitioners to identify and conceptualize programs based on what they do rather than by their names.

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Acknowledgments

This research was derived from a broader research and practice-improvement initiative focused on identifying and promoting high-impact educational practices in community colleges, conducted by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, through the generous funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation. The research findings reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily those of the Gates Foundation or Lumina Foundation.

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Correspondence to Deryl K. Hatch.

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Hatch, D.K., Bohlig, E.M. An Empirical Typology of the Latent Programmatic Structure of Community College Student Success Programs. Res High Educ 57, 72–98 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-015-9379-6

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Keywords

  • Community college
  • First-year programs
  • Promising practices
  • Program design
  • Latent class analysis
  • Factor mixture model