Student Success: A Mixed Methods Study of Noncredit to Credit Transitions

The essential focus of community colleges is to produce highly skilled workers to compete globally, but this goal cannot be accomplished with a singular emphasis on credit instruction. Although noncredit courses and certificates create a pathway to credit instruction, the role of noncredit instruction as a conduit for student success is often the neglected part of the community college mission. Therefore, the purpose of this mixed methods study was to determine (a) the extent to which noncredit instruction contributed to degree and certificate attainment for California community college students and (b) in what ways noncredit instruction affected student progress toward educational goals. Using a convergent mixed method design, this study examined whether California community college students who began in noncredit programs and transitioned to credit courses reached their academic goals and thereby contributed to certificate and degree completion rates. The quantitative findings revealed the student characteristics by gender, ethnicity, language, enrollment in credit, and completion of credit certificate or degree. The findings further revealed that 23.5% of the noncredit transition students enrolled in one of the credit campuses within the district, while far fewer noncredit students (1.3%) completed a certificate or degree. Analysis of the qualitative data obtained through a focus group interview with 10 students revealed that participants were generally pleased with their noncredit educational iv experience, describing noncredit education as a flexible, active learning community. Qualitative results identified several emerging themes in relation to noncredit students who transitioned to credit institutions, including that noncredit instruction creates a pathway to credit opportunities, builds confidence, provides a climate of support, and improves academic skills. The mixed method analysis identified effective noncredit strategies that support noncredit students’ successful transition to credit instruction. Interpretations of the findings were discussed, followed by implications pertaining to policy, practice, and future research, and finally recommendations.


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