The Michigan Center for Student Success provides state-level support to Michigan’s 28 community colleges by serving as a hub connecting leadership, administrators, faculty, and staff in their emerging and ongoing efforts to improve student outcomes, emphasizing linkages between practice, research, and policy.
The MCSS is a member of the Postsecondary State Policy Network which is an initiative of Jobs for the Future. The Postsecondary State Policy Network supports the Michigan Center for Student Success and the other success centers across the nation. Jobs for the Future describes the key center functions:
Student success strategy alignment and coherence: Map and align institutional, state, and national student success initiatives relevant to the state and its community colleges; create an umbrella framework and marshal necessary resources to accelerate the completion agenda.
Convening and engagement: Bring colleges together around reform; develop faculty leadership; create in-state networks and communities of practice; advance cross-sector alignment and collaboration; attend national convenings.
Data use to guide priorities and investments: Improve data usage through work, including establishing coherent metrics across initiatives, sharing data, improving transparency, and increasing institutional research capacity.
Research and knowledge management: Organize and synthesize evidence on models and their performance from in-state and national sources and make that information easily accessible to college innovators; map and make visible institutional strategies and their outcomes; develop newsletters, policy briefs, and overviews of individual or multi-college initiatives.
Policy development and advocacy: Help specify and sharpen agendas for system and legislative changes that promote completion; identify and coordinate policy research needs; deepen state-level capacity for reform through mobilization of evidence and college voices; assist institutions with assessments of needed policy changes at the institution, system, and state levels in light of their completion goals and strategies.
Student momentum (or the lack thereof) is often a critical factor in student success. Key momentum points for community college students, organized into the Guiding Student Success Framework are used to prioritize the work of the Michigan Center for Student Success. Michigan community colleges participate in a plethora of existing and emerging student success initiatives focusing on different momentum points; however, these efforts are often silos of activity on individual campuses. This framework is a tool for MCSS to organize convenings, identify college needs and/or gaps in funding, as well as areas where deeper research is needed. The framework draws on prominent national initiatives such as Completion by Design and Achieving the Dream as well as a recent report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement—A Matter of Degrees.
Access & Alignment - As community colleges focus more intently on the success of their students, they cannot abandon the long-standing mission of providing open access to all students. Community colleges are a critical source of postsecondary education in the communities they serve, and strong partnerships with the K-12 sector, including adult basic education, are critically important to ensure students do not slip through the cracks and public resources are used efficiently. Key areas of innovative work of colleges and their secondary partners focus on aligning expectations about college readiness, increasing the use early assessments in high school, improving connections with the adult basic education system, bridging non-credit offerings with credit programs, and enhancing dual enrollment opportunities.
Entry & Intake - Many students who enter community colleges are unfamiliar with the procedures to enroll and can become overwhelmed from the beginning. To address these issues, colleges have focused on how students enter their institutions with an eye toward simplifying the students’ experience and getting them started on the path to completing a credential. Important innovations implemented in this area include improving the placement and assessment process (including prior learning assessments), enhancing orientation programs (including success courses), and augmenting in-take advising to provide better understanding of options for financial aid and programs of study that have labor market value.
Teaching & Learning – In an era focused on greater educational attainment, what students learn and who they learn from are central. Colleges need to have robust strategies to engage faculty, both full- and part-time, in supporting student success. College innovations in this area have included providing professional development opportunities for faculty to improve pedagogy, redesigning development education to accelerate and contextualization foundational skills, and enhancing outcomes assessments so faculty and students know they are making progress in their learning.
Acceleration and Progress – Getting students in the door of a community college is only part of our work. Colleges must also ensure that mechanisms are in place to retain students and help them make progress as quickly as possible to completion. Key innovations in this area include strengthening wrap-around student supports to promote continual enrollment, leveraging technology to provide instant feedback and advice, implementing competency-based programming tied to high-demand careers, and providing emergency aid and access to other public benefits for students who encounter life issues.
Completion and Success – It is critical for community colleges to focus on the ultimate goal—helping students successfully complete a credential. While this goal may entail certificates, associate degrees, and/or transferring to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree, in all instances the credential should have value in the labor market. Important college innovations in this area include enhancing career advising and placement services using real-time labor market data and employer outreach, streamlining traditional articulation and transfer processes in partnership with four-year universities, and identifying and reconnecting with “near completers” to award credentials they have earned.
The MCSS focuses on several initiatives that support the student success framework.
Mounting evidence suggests that a postsecondary credential will be a prerequisite for a majority of jobs in the future, resulting in growing calls from policymakers, experts, and foundations to increase educational attainment to meet labor market demands and global competition. Michigan is not immune from these pressures and, over the past several years, community colleges across the state have responded by intensifying efforts to improve student outcomes. The challenge, given the decentralized nature of higher education in Michigan, has been that college innovations are taking place in insolation on individual campuses. To address this disconnect and provide greater opportunities for colleges to collaborate, the Michigan Community College Association established the Michigan Center for Student Success through a generous Kresge Foundation grant in 2011. In the five year's since it was created, the MCSS has been involved with many initiatives with community colleges in Michigan. Currently, the MCSS is guided by the 2014-2017 MCSS Strategic Direction.