The whole is only as good as the sum of its parts. For community colleges that means a happy, engaged student body leads to higher retention and graduation rates. That, in turn, leads to smiles all around.

Humber College in Toronto recently learned it was quite successful in the recent, noteworthy American-based Community College Survey of Student Engagement, or CCSSE. Humber topped the list of 58 colleges (with enrolment of at least 15,000 students), while ranking first in four out of five benchmark categories.

“We were extremely proud with the results,” says Michael Hatton, Humber’s VP Academic. “We weren’t sure where we actually stood (in terms of student engagement).”

The college finished first when it came to active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge and student-faculty interaction.

“The results are a product of how hard our faculty works at engaging students,” he said. “They know how important it is.”

The CCSSE is an annual survey based out of the University of Texas at Austin, has surveyed more than one million community college students since 2002 in 730 American colleges and a few Canadian colleges. Colleges must pay the CCSSE a fee based on enrolment. Humber was the only Ontario college to administer the survey to students.

Karla Fisher, College Relations Coordinator for CCSSE said that student engagement is a key indicator of student learning, and, therefore, the quality of community colleges.

Ontario colleges usually gauge their success by participating in the government-administered Key Performance Indicator (KPI) survey. This survey covers a wide variety of areas reporting on the performance of Ontario colleges and takes students, graduates and faculty answers into consideration. The results of the KPI can determine various funding opportunities, and is therefore quite rigorous. It is, for the most past, the standard for success of Ontario’s colleges.

Rosanna Caballero of Centennial College, who has never participated in the CCSSE, says that because of the time and resources it takes to complete the KPI, in addition to its relation to funding, the CCSSE is a survey they don’t need to participate in.

Hatton, however, said that Humber had reached its ceiling in terms of KPI results and was looking for a new perspective that focused more on student engagement. Something, he said, is not as comprehensively studied in Canada as it is in the United States.

 

He wanted to get a better idea of how Humber could improve strictly in the areas of engagement because it links directly to retention, he said.

“We did it to be the best we could possibly be,” he said.