Combat Community College Stigma with Better Messaging


That’s the number of students enrolled in 2-year institutions across the United States in Spring 2019 according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The impact that community colleges are having on these students is note-worthy. Recent findings from the 2019 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Report, “Persistence”, show that students that transfer from community college to selective four-year institutions are more likely to graduate than students from high school or students that transfer from other four-year schools. Students planning for a technical or vocational career can achieve focused degrees from community college and enter straight into the workforce.  

The paths are endless at community colleges, but all of this great work is often getting buried by the stigma that surrounds them. Not every student out of high school is best-suited to attend a four-year institution, but the stigma out there still tells them that community college is only a fallback option. These students aren’t aware of the benefits that community college can provide thus missing out on a potential best-fit for their post-secondary education. We all can agree that needs to change. 

The question is: how can they discover what community colleges can offer and how can community colleges combat this stigma? 

Combatting the Community College stigma

Enter Steve Robinson, president of Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. Robinson has taken the issue head-on this year with his social media campaign, #EndCCStigma, and has become somewhat of a revolutionary for changing the community college perception. The #EndCCStigma campaign has community college leaders from across the country sharing success stories and various benefits of attending — a step in the right direction. Robinson initiated this first step in flipping the script on the community college narrative by admitting there’s a stigma out there. But what comes next is up to community colleges. 

To truly understand what makes community colleges a beneficial post-secondary option, community colleges need to communicate with those most influential in a student’s decision — high school counselors, parents and of course, the student. Differentiating factors like technical and vocational programs, dual enrollment opportunities, articulation agreements and transfer pathways are all items that should be promoted with these parties on a consistent basis.  

In a recent survey of high schools counselors conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), fewer than 40% of counselors felt very prepared to discuss community college transfer policies and only 50% felt very prepared to discuss transfer from 2-year to 4-year institutions in general. That means of the 493 survey respondents, only roughly 246 of them can discuss transfers between community colleges and 4-year institutions. That’s a problem.  

Leverage high-impact channels to improve student communication

The solution? Better communication through high-impact channels that students are already are engaged with. Students need to be informed and understand the different pathways available to them. Whether it is starting with dual-enrollment opportunities to enrolling straight from high school and getting an associate degree to go straight into the workforce or saving up to transfer to a 4-year institution, students should understand their opportunities. While displaying information on your website is important, it is equally as important to communicate directly with students. Direct mail, email and ad placements are all effective channels when done as part of a comprehensive marketing plan. But, communicating with students directly through a high school facilitated platform like Hobsons’ Naviance proves to be more successful. 

Higher ed institutions can reach these interested students through their profile pages and display relevant information, like dual-enrollment opportunities and transfer pathways, to help inform students during their college search with Intersect, Hobsons’ recruitment optimization platform. Intersect also gives institutions the ability to deepen student and counselor relationships through in-person interactions. With these interactions, community colleges can work with counselors to ensure they are better equipped to speak to transfer processes among other items specific to their institution.  

This approach is proven to be successful. For the Class of 2019, Hobsons saw that 73% of students that connected with community colleges in Naviance went on to apply to the institution and 30% of students enrolled. 

Community colleges are an essential piece to the U.S. higher education system and deserve more positive recognition than they currently receive. The stigma that Steve Robinson referred to with #EndCCStigma is real, and the notion that community colleges are a lesser option than a 4-year institution is simply absurd. Yes, the perception needs to change, but the real work begins with leveraging the power of communication, wiping away the ignorance that surrounds so many and educating students on opportunities that they might not have known existed. 

Learn more about how Intersect can help your institution reach best-fit Naviance students in our digital brochure

About Hobsons 

A leader in education technology, Hobsons helps more than 15 million students to identify their strengths, explore careers, match to best-fit educational opportunities, create academic plans, and reach their education and life goals. More than 13,000 K-12 and higher education institutions partner with Hobsons and leverage our expertise and our solutions — Naviance, Intersect, and Starfish — to improve college and career readiness, college recruiting and admissions, and higher education student success to support millions of students. 

About Naviance 

Naviance provides information and resources that enable school counselors, teachers, students, and parents to engage in meaningful conversations about how to assess a student’s options after high school. It also allows them to explore, apply to, and enroll in a postsecondary path that is a best fit for the student, based on education and career goals, learning style, and personal preferences regarding where and how they would like to continue their education. The platform arms students and their families with information on the true cost of a particular college, based on their own family income, and allows them to explore scholarship and financial aid opportunities. 

About Intersect 

Intersect by Hobsons connects with Naviance, the most widely-adopted college and career readiness platform used by 10 million students nationwide, to enable colleges and universities to better identify and connect with high school students actively engaged in the college search process. Intersect also makes it easier to collaborate and create connections with high school counselors to support a successful student journey. 

Topics Admissions and Enrollment Management Matching

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