Network Connections and Insights

Wide view of meeting participants

The College Completion Network (CCN) kicked off 2020 by gathering in Washington, D.C., to connect, share updates, and learn from one another. The research teams that form our network enjoyed the chance to interact and discuss the latest research related to postsecondary success. In addition, to ensure that our network’s research supports real-world efforts, the research teams heard from state systems of higher education about their research needs and opportunities for collaboration.

Insights from network teams

The all-day meeting began with activities designed to promote sharing and collaboration among the network’s research teams. Working in pairs, the teams provided updates on their studies, including the challenges that researchers are facing and the insights they’ve gained.

With several of the studies nearing completion, the teams also explored strategies for communicating their findings in ways that can help the field understand the implications and improve policy and practice. After two rounds of paired sharing, the research teams reconvened to reflect on the discussions as a group and identify key takeaways. 

Trey Miller, Ph.D., a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research, the CCN’s co-principal investigator (PI), and a PI on the CCN Accelerated Pathways team, noted that the session “gave the research teams the opportunity to catch up on the network research projects and to draw upon the specialized expertise of other network members to help address challenges they were facing in their own projects.”

Insights from state systems of higher education

In the afternoon session, teams from five state systems of higher education—California, Georgia, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin—presented on their priorities and the problems of practice they’re working to address. The teams highlighted a number of common themes:

  • Developmental education reform, including how best to assess and address incoming students’ gaps in college readiness and understanding the impacts of different corequisite models
  • Dropout prevention, including identifying predictors of persistence and dropout for different groups of students
  • Dual enrollment, including how best to address equity gaps in access to quality dual enrollment programs and the impacts of dual enrollment on college persistence
  • English learners (Els), including accurate identification of and quality services for ELs in both traditional degree-seeking and adult programs
  • Equity and students’ sense of belonging, including the need to diversify faculty, provide supportive learning environments, ensure counseling services are inclusive and culturally responsive, and strengthen support for first-generation college students
  • Financial aid, including how best to improve application (and re-application) processes, help students navigate those processes, and maximize the value of financial aid
  • Transfer, including improving students’ experiences and preserving their momentum as they move between colleges

After the presentations, the state teams met with CCN researchers in small groups to discuss their problems of practice, gain input on possible ways to investigate them, and explore opportunities for partnerships. Those who participated appreciated the chance to discuss ideas for research that would directly support on-the-ground efforts to improve college completion.

Eric Bettinger, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Stanford University, the CCN’s lead PI, and a PI on the CCN Nudges to the Finish Line team, noted that the discussions gave state practitioners the opportunity to “sit down with researchers and explain their problems, explain some of the things they're looking at and trying to get some advice on from researchers, both about things that we already know from the field and things that they might be able to look at. And part of the hope here is that we can help some of the states with some of the things we've learned through the network.”

For an overview of the College Completion Network and its goals and activities, see our CCN infographic. To learn more about the Network research projects, see our Studies page.