New report identifies specific IT-enhanced characteristics of successful community colleges across the country.

tech-community-collegeAccording to a new report, a handful of community colleges across the U.S. are incorporating technology-based innovations that are revolutionizing access to postsecondary education for nontraditional students—and these best practices can be applied to a diverse number of institutions.

The report, “Community Colleges Online,” by Rachel Fishman, senior policy analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program, recognizes—like the Obama Administration—that the open access of community colleges is one of the country’s greatest postsecondary strengths, but also one of its greatest challenges.

“While community colleges provide access to higher education, they can perpetuate the barriers to success faced by [nontraditional] students who have lives outside the classroom that often interfere with academics,” writes Fishman.

For example, a “sad truth” noted in the report reveals that only about eight percent of part-time students in two-year associate degree programs manage to graduate within four years, due to what Fishman calls the “barriers” to success.

Generally speaking, these barriers are often caused by lack of online options for students, lack of credit transfer options, and lack of options for remediation.

“What [nontraditional] students need are more high-quality, flexible support services, courses, and credentials,” explains Fishman. “Information technology has the potential to support students through their degree path and increase the number of courses a student takes per semester, hastening time to degree.”

According to the report, a handful of community colleges in different states have implemented innovative strategies and technologies to eliminate barriers to degree completion success.

(Next page: 4 innovations from successful community colleges)