In recent student-centered research work, we heard from Career and Technical Education (CTE) students who feel well-supported at their college. We listened as students expressed what success means to them and how their college helps them self-actualize. Here are some findings from these discussions, highlighting two common themes.
- Personal contact matters—even in a digital age. Coming into this work, we were aware that paying for college and college-related expenses is a central pain point for many students across the country. However, a subset of students at this community college recalled how one staff member in particular quickly connected them to workforce funding resources that took care of most, if not all, of their college expenses. The assistance of this staff member made the process straightforward and painless. As they all mentioned this staff member by name, we were reminded that even resourceful students appreciate having a clear and responsive point of contact–someone who can make navigating a complex college system and attending school even a little bit easier.
- Success extends beyond college completion. Because completing college is no small feat, we were interested to hear students discuss success in a way that extended beyond completing their studies. These students painted a holistic picture of success, which, when cultivated, could keep them engaged and focused. For them, success meant applying what they learned to the career they envisioned, feeling confident in their future work, and/or gaining the skills they needed to make a better living to support themselves and their families. For us, this was a clear reminder that a student’s college journey is just a small piece of their goals and aspirations.
Colleges and programs can foster a sense of well-being among their students when they cultivate this bigger picture of success and make it easier for students to navigate a complex system of processes, requirements, and resources. When colleges put students at the center of their missions to serve and educate community members, students are more likely to feel that colleges are their advocates.