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ERIC Number: ED515131
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jan
Pages: 35
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 52
The Shapeless River: Does a Lack of Structure Inhibit Students' Progress at Community Colleges? CCRC Working Paper No. 25. Assessment of Evidence Series
Scott-Clayton, Judith
Community College Research Center, Columbia University
For many students at community colleges, finding a path to degree completion is the equivalent of navigating a shapeless river on a dark night. While academic preparation and financial supports are critical components of student success, subtle institutional features may also play an important role. This paper thus reviews the evidence for what is called the "structure hypothesis: that community college students will be more likely to persist and succeed in programs that are tightly and consciously structured, with relatively little room for individuals to unintentionally deviate from paths toward completion, and with limited bureaucratic obstacles for students to circumnavigate". This review of the literature inside and outside of higher education suggests that the lack of structure in many community colleges is likely to result in less-than-optimal decisions by students about whether and how to persist toward a credential. Though there is no silver-bullet intervention to address this problem, this paper highlights several promising programs and suggests directions for future experimentation and research. (Contains 8 footnotes.)
Community College Research Center. Available from: CCRC Publications. Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street Box 174, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3091; Fax: 212-678-3699; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Columbia University, Community College Research Center