UC Davis-Led Team Awarded $3 Million Grant to Assess Pandemic Recovery Efforts by Community Colleges

Identifying Best Practices for Improving Post-Pandemic Outcomes

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences has awarded a $3 million research grant to a University of California, Davis-led research team to assess pandemic recovery efforts undertaken by the California Community Colleges.

The goal of this three-year project, “Evidence to Inform Improvement: Supporting California Community Colleges in Pandemic Recovery,” is to build understanding of effective strategies to keep community college students on a path to completion during the disruptions of COVID-19 and to inform institutional responses in future periods of disruption. It will also inform institutional support for students more broadly, as many who attend community colleges experience other barriers that impact their enrollment and persistence.

“Helping community college students succeed fits with our mission of education as a path to upward social mobility,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May. “This study will provide the blueprint for us to better support these students as they navigate challenges.”

The project will leverage the research expertise of faculty and staff of the California Education Lab and administrative data available to the lab through a data sharing partnership with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Michal Kurlaender,  professor of education, will lead the project team, along with School of Education Professor Paco Martorell and Department of Economics Professor Scott Carrell. Other partners include the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, or CCCCO,  and the Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC. The three-year project will document California Community Colleges’ recovery activities and how supplemental federal, state and philanthropic dollars were used to support them. Co-principal investigators for this project include John Hetts and Valerie Lundy-Wagner of the CCCCO, and Olga Rodriguez and Hans Johnson of PPIC.

“We are eager to deepen our investigation of successful strategies to reconnect students to college trajectories that were slowed or interrupted by the pandemic,” said Kurlaender. “These federal resources are critical support for this work.”

In addition, researchers will identify which of these recovery activities contributed to improved student outcomes to inform California Community Colleges leaders and state policymakers on best practices for improving outcomes post-pandemic.

“This research is essential to our ongoing efforts to use evidence-based strategies to further accelerate our recovery efforts for colleges and students,” said Interim California Community Colleges Chancellor Daisy Gonzales. “Our collaboration on data collection and analysis will provide important additional evidence to inform and guide statewide policy efforts, campus leadership, technical assistance and professional development.”

Through UC Davis’ Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research, this project will be informed by collaboration with a newly established Research Collaboration Council, or RCC, composed of CEOs leading a diverse set of colleges and college districts.

“Colleges need good evidence to support decision making as we emerge from a time of great stress and challenge for our students, and students of color in particular,” said Angélica Garcia, president of Berkeley City College and member of the RCC. “We’re ready to partner with our colleagues at UC Davis to ensure that this project tackles the research questions that stand the best chance of making a difference in the lives of our students.”

To set a baseline for this project, UC Davis researchers and the CCCCO have documented substantial enrollment losses and persistence declines across most of the state’s 116 community colleges in the 18 months following the onset of the pandemic.

In addition to the $3 million research grant, the Wheelhouse center was also awarded $600,000 from IES, through a partnership with the Community College Research Center, to support convenings of a new national network of research teams investigating community college responses to COVID-19. The Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges Network will coordinate teams from UC Davis, Harvard University, Teachers College (Columbia University) and USC to ensure collaboration, shared knowledge and coordination of dissemination of findings.

Media Resources

Media Contacts:

  • Michal Kurlaender, professor, UC Davis, project team leader, mkurlaender@ucdavis.edu
  • Paco Martorell, professor, UC Davis, project team leader, pmartorell@ucdavis.edu
  • Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

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