Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the CCC2NAU program which helps students attending Coconino Community College (CCC) transition to Northern Arizona University (NAU) to complete baccalaureate degree programs through providing targeted and integrated advising services as well as by expanding online services and course delivery.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using surveys completed by and structured interviews with key stakeholders, document reviews, and extant data collected from third-party systems. It was designed to evaluate perceptions on the quality and effectiveness of CCC2NAU in terms of meeting students’ needs and to identify implementation successes and challenges.
- The study found that CCC2NAU required significant collaboration between CCC and NAU. Employers were heavily involved in CCC’s course development, participants valued CCC2NAU highly, and a grant increased CCC2NAU’s capacity in terms of supporting recruitment and marketing efforts, offering more targeted advising, expanding online services, and hiring staff.
- To ensure accuracy of findings, the authors triangulated data across multiple data sources and used both quantitative and qualitative to analyze the data collected. However, the authors did not indicate whether study participants consented prior to data collection or if Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was obtained, and they did not thoroughly explain the methods used to draw samples from the different data sources leveraged.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May 2020.
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Community college
- Location/setting: Flagstaff, Arizona
- Population served and scale: Adults with no bachelor’s degree; 1,502 participants
- Industry focus: Not included
- Intervention activities: Student support services; Technology
- Organizational partnerships: Employers
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Not included
The CCC2NAU program was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Round 2 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program in Fall 2012. The grant funds were used to expand recruitment, retention, and sustainability efforts for CCC2NAU. Though not a workforce development program, CCC2NAU helps students currently attending CCC transition and transfer to NAU to complete a bachelor’s degree program. CCC2NAU is designed to help participants obtain gainful employment through higher education. Prior to the grant, presidents from CCC and NAU met in 2008 to create a task force to identify ways to help remove barriers for students transitioning from CCC to NAU and, as a result, CCC2NAU was established. CCC leveraged TAACCCT funding to increase CCC2NAU’s capacity to serve more students, offer additional online services and courses, build a sustainable data collection infrastructure, and carry out a needs analysis of local employers to inform curriculum and program development.
CCC2NAU allowed students to attend CCC (taking advantage of small class sizes and lower tuition costs) before transitioning to NAU. This program was open to students who have not previously enrolled in NAU and who do not have a bachelor’s degree. CCC2NAU developed pathways that that align associate’s degree programs and courses offered at CCC with baccalaureate degree programs available at NAU, provided targeted advising where such pathways are discussed, created group workshops to provide information on CCC2NAU and the transitioning process, and allowed dual enrollment at both colleges as well as reverse transfer. CCC2NAU program participants also received scholarship opportunities, NAU campus housing placement, and had their NAU application fee waived. During the four-year period of the TAACCCT grant, 1,502 CCC2NAU participants were served. The program’s logic model includes program components (e.g., dual enrollment, targeted advising, and reverse transfer), short-term outcomes (academic and social integration into NAU), intermediate outcomes (e.g., successful transition to NAU), and long-term outcomes (e.g., obtaining a baccalaureate degree).
Features of the Study
This implementation study evaluated student and staff perceptions on CCC2NAU’s quality and utility in terms of meeting student needs as well as implementation successes and challenges. The authors used a mixed methods approach to measure CCC2NAU’s implementation. The sample of study participants included students enrolled in CCC2NAU during the grant period (all active students were surveyed and 23 interviewed), 11 CCC and NAU staff members, 17 NAU advisors, 58 individuals representing 49 Arizona employers, and four CCC faculty who served on Business Advisory Councils, were interviewed to understand how CCC collaborated with regional employers. The authors carried out document reviews of meeting notes and collected extant data to evaluate the effectiveness of new marketing techniques and calculate the usage of new online services. Quantitative survey data were analyzed through a statistical software program, while qualitative data was collected through interviews and document reviews and were coded using a computer software program that identified emergent themes and patterns. Qualitative data were then examined by using analytic induction and afterwards, the authors created assertions about the data. Open-ended survey responses were analyzed using content analysis (i.e., conducting text searches for recurring themes).
- The study found CCC2NAU involved a high level of collaboration and harmonization between CCC and NAU. Such efforts included having representatives from both institutions present at CCC2NAU Coordinating Council meetings, NAU advisors being located on CCC's campus and being considered CCC employees, sharing student data and facilitating reverse transfer processes between CCC and NAU, and carrying out clear communication practices to ensure coursework, degrees, and certifications completed at CCC transfer to NAU degree plans.
- TAACCCT grant funding helped increase the capacity of CCC2NAU by hiring additional advising staff, providing more targeted student advising services, increasing recruitment and marketing activities and events, and expanding online services such as upgrading its Degree Works platform and purchasing the Starfish Early Alert system to track academic progress.
- Employers from Northern Arizona were very involved in advising CCC on its curriculum and program development as well as helping CCC identify which skills would be essential for different industries. Such collaboration ensured CCC's offerings met local workforce needs.
- CCC2NAU students indicated that the targeted advising services provided were highly valued and they appreciated the option to start their postsecondary career at a community college to save costs, take advantage of smaller class sizes, and interact more frequently with faculty.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found some challenges related to the Search Engine Marketing Campaign tool used to increase CCC2NAU program visibility on the web. These included the tool being costly, difficult to link online campaigns to actual program enrollment, and having to abandon traditional forms of marketing in favor of using this new online tool.
- The study found the process for CCC2NAU program managers and advisors to update degree pathways when requirements and coursework changed was time- and resource-intensive.
- The study found that without focused supervision or training available, consistency regarding services provided by CCC2NAU advisors was difficult to achieve.
- The study found CCC hired a systems analyst and a Director of Institutional Research to help document and streamline the processes for tracking students and their data between CCC and NAU. This allowed both institutions to access and update student data in real-time rather than staff being limited to department-specific databases or having to carry out manual data entry.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors noted some limitations in the implementation study, including the predominant use of self-reported data in the analysis, which may have introduced biased responses. Additionally, they discussed the possible occurrence of self-selection by those who participated in the study’s surveys or interviews, noting results from such data may not be representative of their respective populations. Moreover, given the physical distance between CCC and NAU (less than a half mile apart), it limits the generalizability of the implementation findings. The authors also did not explicitly state whether participant consent and IRB approval were ascertained prior to the start of data collection. They also did not share sufficient information regarding whether those who were interviewed or surveyed were representative of their respective study populations or explain what the rationales were for only collecting data from a sample of those populations via interviews. Namely, they did not fully articulate the methods used to draw samples from the different data sources leveraged in the study.