Q&A with Jessica Bozeman

Jessica Bozeman
Jessica Bozeman

JB: What advantages will this survey provide for the participating community college?

CCP: Community college enrollments are down significantly over the last 5 years. Understanding the “why” for declining enrollments helps colleges understand the “what” and the “how” to resolving the situation. Knowing what the barriers are that potential students face preventing enrollment after completing a college application is the first step. How the college helps these individuals is the second step. By understanding and overcoming barriers, colleges can increase enrollments, thus fulfilling the mission of providing low-cost, high-quality education to a broader constituency.

JB: Why should they trust your company with prospective student info?

CCP: Community College Partners does not actually gather any student data. All student information remains with the college. Emails sent to perspective survey participants are sent from the college, and not from Community College Partners, thus helping maintain the integrity of college records and applicant confidentiality. All that is obtained by Community College Partners, on behalf of the college, is anonymous demographic data used to help understand the survey responses from macro and micro perspectives.

JB: How is this different from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement?

CCP: The CCSSE is an excellent survey designed to inform colleges about how their students engage, or perceive their engagement, with various departments on campus. The Survey of Perceived Barriers to College Attendance seeks to understand why individuals did not become students in the first place. The CCSSE provides great data for after the fact, but before we can engage students, we must first understand why some apply to college, but stop there.

JB: What experience do you have working with community colleges and what led you to create this type of survey?

CCP: I have been in higher education for more than 10 years, and began my work with community colleges in 2012. While working on my doctorate coursework in community college leadership, I became aware that more than 48% of individuals who apply to attend college never do. This was alarming to me, and so I decided to make it my quest to understand why this happens.

JB: Do participating community colleges need a minimum number of student applicants or other requirements?

CCP: No. Community colleges vary in size from fewer than 1,000 students to more than 50,000 students. Applicants are no different because both are determined by the nature and location of the college. In all cases, some percentage of the total number of applicants are going to fail to enroll, and whether it is 48% or 65%, understanding the barriers to enrollment as a first step will help colleges help those who want to attend, but who face challenges. We want to help even the smallest colleges as they serve their constituents.

JB: How are the findings presented? Are there any follow up services provided?

CCP: At the end of each survey period, Community College Partners collates the data for each college individually and presents the findings in a White Paper drafted specifically for that college. Included in the White Paper are recommendations for improvements based on research by thought leaders and higher education professionals, and CCP is available to assist the college as they address the barriers and seek ways of overcoming the obstacles their constituents face. In addition, CCP has developed a 3-year program which allows colleges to focus on continuous improvement over that period. Data from the first survey is used to make improvements to enrollment services for the next year. Those improvements are evaluated with the second year survey. Refinements made during the second year are then evaluated with results from the third-year survey. As we like to say, data not used is useless, and used data has little value without follow-up research to determine if the steps taken added value.