While the affordability issue in higher education is nothing new, it is often considered a problem exclusive to four-year institutions. According to recent studies however, this is not the case. More than half of all community colleges in the U.S. are reportedly too expensive for low-income students.

What’s even more surprising? Around 70% of respondents to a survey conducted by the Hope Center for College Community and Justice at Temple University experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness in the previous year. Knowing this, it’s not surprising that textbook and course material costs are hindering community college students’ ability to learn—a point noted by Dr. Marjorie Welch, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Iowa Western Community College:

[During] the time I’ve been at Iowa Western, tuition has been going up each year. I have concerns when I hear about the number of students that aren’t buying books, faculty that are upset because students are not successful in class, because they don’t have books—and realize this is something we can control.”

To address the costs of learning materials while still arming students with the resources they need for success, community colleges across the country are making a digital transformation. By introducing digital learning platforms, tools and resources into the curriculum, institutions help boost accessibility and affordability for their students.

Read on as we discuss the impact of this digital leap, what it means for institutions and how Cengage Unlimited Institutional helps community colleges successfully bridge the gap between quality and affordable learning institution-wide.

Transforming to Meet the Unique Needs of Community College Students

Across community colleges, the unique backgrounds, needs and challenges of the student body can make digital transformation difficult. From working and studying full-time—to non-traditional career paths—community college course materials need to empower students by meeting their needs. Take Dr. Welch’s observations on her students at Iowa Western Community College:

“Over 50% of our students are from a first generation [family], many of which are from a low socioeconomic status. They do not have the support network at home to get help. Most of them have jobs—many of which are full-time—while trying to go to school together.

We see the significant need in our area for students to receive training and education. So being a community college, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be planning on pursuing a four-year degree. We can get [students] into the job market, and making a livable wage very quickly, but [students] need to be able to succeed in the courses.”

Considering the unique hurdles community college students need to traverse, institutions looking to make the digital transformation to help their students are placed in a precarious position. Tasked with finding the balance between quality learning materials that prepare students for their futures and the affordable solutions that give students greater access, institutions must also find ways to address their own unique needs.

A Look at Digital Transformation from an Institutional Perspective

Making it easier for students to afford and access the learning materials they need sounds like an easy decision to make, but at the institution-level, making such a switch brings a variety of challenges. In order to truly provide students with a solution that makes a difference, there are a few things to consider when making the digital leap:

Adoption: When transitioning to a digital platform, adoption is a crucial component of any successful digital transformation. While some community colleges choose campus-wide adoption, or segmented adoption across specific departments—solutions need to seamlessly cater to the specific implementation needs of the institution.

Ease-of-Use: In order for digital to make an impact, it’s critical that the platforms, services, tools and resources instructors and students depend on be intuitive and easy to use. The faster students and instructors can master new learning tools, the faster they can use them to teach and learn successfully. Moreover, these learning tools should cater to the user—providing an accessible experience that aligns with the unique work environments of instructors and students.

Features and Capabilities: Institutions make the digital leap to enhance teaching capabilities for their instructors and increase the learning opportunities for their students. Knowing this, digital transformation should incorporate learning tools with features and capabilities that empower instructors to impact their students—while giving students access that leads to improved learning outcomes. 

Support and Technical Help: When adopting any new technology, service or product, there are bound to be growing pains. From IT implementation to student use, institutions need assurance that they will receive the help and support they need to ensure the transformation is seamless and effective from start to finish.

Empowering Community Colleges and Their Students with Cengage Unlimited Institutional

To ensure institutions can make the transformation to digital learning—while maximizing the impact of their efforts—we developed Cengage Unlimited Institutional. Providing institutions with an all-encompassing solution tailored to the needs of digital transformation, Cengage Unlimited Institutional delivers the affordability and access of Cengage Unlimited with the dedicated partnership, support and guidance a smooth implementation requires.

Cengage Unlimited Institutional is already garnering fans amongst community college faculty throughout the country.

Faculty & Leadership Share Their Experiences with Cengage Unlimited Institutional

The Impact of Affordability, Access and Quality:

“We’re a relatively small community college, so our resource base is pretty small. Now, we’re able to do things now that we couldn’t have afforded or asked students to pay for. And, the fact that we’re doing that for less money out of the student’s pocketI’m not even sure how this is possible, but I’m enjoying every single day of it.

This fall, we’ll be at a 47% graduation rate, which is more than double the national average for a community college. We’ve seen upticks in graduation already in just one semester and I suspect that I will finally pass the elusive 50% mark that the American Association of Community Colleges set as a goal for us all. And, I truly believe that [Cengage Unlimited Institutional] is going to be the thing that finally gets us over that hurdle.” – Dr. William Austin, President of Warren County Community College

Delivering Value Institutions Expect:

“I was very surprised at how much faculty and students actually get. Because we went into this for the textbooks and affordability using Cengage Unlimited, so many more resources became available. It was as if weekly, faculty or students would find something else that would help them with their learning. So, it was pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise.” – President Austin

Equipping Instructors with the Tools to Make a Difference:

“Our faculty are incredibly excited about the partnership with Cengage Unlimited Institutional, because of the different opportunities it provides to our students. The cost and savings alone are well worth it, but [faculty are] also very excited about the expansive number of resources that will be available to them and their students.” – Dr. Welch

Tailored Institutional Help:

“Whenever there was an issue—and they were all minor—the staff at Cengage jumped right in with our staff. It was a combined operation to get the job done for the students.” – President Austin

Making the Digital Leap? Learn How Cengage Unlimited Institutional Can Help

Successful digital transformation takes strategic planning and seamless collaboration between institutions and digital learning providers.

That’s why we’re committed to providing Cengage Unlimited Institutional Partners with unparalleled service that makes integration fast and effective. From quality learning design, content maintenance and collaboration across institutions, to hands-on help and support—we’re here to make accessible and affordable learning simple.

Find out how at cengage.com/institutional/unlimited.