Why might a student choose to enroll in a community college? In our recent Instructor Engagement Insights survey, we asked: “What are the benefits to students of attending a community college?”

Key themes identified by instructors were affordability, opportunity to build career and technical skills, smaller class sizes, resources that support students’ academic success, and proximity to home. While affordability and proximity pertain to convenience, the majority of these top themes relate to the specific quality perks that can be found at a community college. These are values worth building upon. 

We also surveyed thousands of college students across the country to help us better understand why students choose to enroll in community college.

Get to know your students’ needs

Of the community college students surveyed, 35% say they chose a community college because they often offer smaller class sizes. Smaller class sizes gives instructors the often-coveted opportunity to get to know each of their students personally. Knowing and relating to your student audience allows you to plan lessons around their needs and interests.

It also allows you to learn about students’ needs and become their advocate for improved learning. For example, if your students express a preference for materials or technology that is not currently offered at your school, speak up to your administrators to make a change.

Provide relevant lessons

Of the students who attend community college, 46% say they chose this option because it offers the classes they need or want. Also interestingly, 45% of community college students reported that their classes were relevant for an eventual job, as compared to only 31% of 4-year students who think the same. While 45% is no small percentage, it reinforces the importance of relevancy in the community college classroom.

From our post, “How to Improve Student Engagement in the Classroom,” students are most engaged by relevant, interesting, or fun topics.

A trending concept [from our survey data] was to ensure the content is as relevant to students’ lives as possible. One instructor revealed that “they have to respond or comment on real life scenarios. They seem to open up and see the relevance to what we just learned.” If a topic does not easily lend itself to modern student interests, find a unique way to make the topic fun, or simply let your own enthusiasm show. Another instructor suggests using “multimedia presentations and other techniques in addition to lecture” to keep students engaged.

Prepare students for the future

This is a no-brainer for all educators, right? Community college instructors and faculty have the opportunity to reach perhaps the most diverse student body in education. Just as each community college student has a unique background and experiences, each also has a different set of goals and motivations.

Of the community college students surveyed, 26% say they opted for community college to improve study skills and grades before attending a four-year institution, while 69% say they chose community college to save money.

Perhaps some are just beginning their long journey to reach their Ph.D., while others may be stopping at an associate’s degree. Others may be taking extra classes to fulfill credits at another college or simply to earn professional experience. Keep these goals in mind as you prepare your students for their distinctive futures. For tips on customizing your teaching to different types of learners, review our post, “Teaching in a Culturally Diverse Setting.

 If you’re a community college educator, what advice might you offer to your peers? What questions might you have yourself? Share your thoughts below.