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A series of focus groups with students at three community colleges in Texas revealed a number of barriers to persistence.

The focus groups took place with the same students at three different points in the fall 2021 semester and once during the spring 2022 semester. Their feedback was detailed in a new report by CCCSE, a service and research initiative in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

Some of the main obstacles students faced included a lack of information about early processes such as registration, orientation and how to make payments. While some students had charted out academic plans and felt like they had guidance, others had no plan in place and didn’t feel like they had support. Some students also reported wanting to engage more with their instructors and classmates, but some felt like they didn’t have enough opportunities to do so. Students who participated in courses to prepare them for academic success, study groups and tutoring felt like they had benefited, while others didn’t know these services existed.

Many students reported that their confidence in their ability to complete college dropped in their final interviews.

“As the work of guided pathways evolves, it will be important to continue to listen to what students have to say about the things that help them stay enrolled,” Linda García, executive director of CCCSE, said in a press release. “Many things happen in students’ lives that colleges have no control over, but if we can widen the safety net by focusing on what students tell us work, we can increase their chances for success.”