Success coaches, a more hands-on approach to advising, are Dallas College’s latest effort to demystify the process of obtaining a degree and help its students overcome obstacles along the way.

“It felt good, the fact that someone is actually checking up on you and that they’re keeping up with you,” Donjuan, 24, said. “They actually care about us succeeding.”

Supporting students — particularly those who come from nontraditional paths — is key as difficult circumstances, unclear pathways to a career and uncertainty about the value of pursuing a college can derail their education, experts say.

About half of Dallas College’s students are first-generation; a little more than 20 percent are parents; and about 22 percent are adult learners who are at least 25 with a full-time job,according to self-reported responses and data from a fall 2022 survey.

Soon, ensuring that students are successful could be even more important as Texas lawmakers want to tie community college funding to outcomes.

But without purposeful guidance on choosing the right classes or taking advantage of available resources, students can easily get lost and end up “making decisions that don’t get them to a degree,” said Josh Wyner, who leads higher education programs at The Aspen Institute.

In efforts to mitigate the mix of challenges that students encounter, Dallas College leaders invested in a heartier, more intrusive advising nearly three years ago that pairs students with success coaches as research suggests that contact with a significant college staffer is a crucial factor in retention.

Trustees approved $10 million to strengthen the system’s student success infrastructure and nearly doubled its coaching and advising capacity.

Read the full article about college students by Valeria Olivares at The Hechinger Report.