Report Finds Opportunities for Two-Year Colleges to Improve Supports for High-Achievers

New research provides an initial look at support programs for first-year students and suggests an increased focus on nurturing their needs

Lansdowne, VA – A report released today by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Ithaka S+R, and Two Year First Year catalogs the support programs available to first-year students at the nation’s public two-year institutions. Titled “First-Year Student Support: Supporting High-Achieving First-Year Students at Public Two-Year Institutions,” this report additionally examines how programs are tailored to the needs of the high-achieving students at those institutions.

“Many talented students with financial need begin their higher education at community colleges. These very motivated students benefit from strong financial and advising support, as we have seen through the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Cooke Foundation. “By funding research like this project, we hope to help institutions identify strategies and best practices for supporting exceptionally promising students with financial need.”

The report examines practices pertaining to five areas of support for first-year students: first-year orientation, first-year seminars, proactive advising and counseling, learning communities, and social support systems and networks.

All of the two-year institutions surveyed offer at least one type of first-year support, but only 40 percent have a stand-alone first-year experience program, office, or department dedicated to helping students in the first year of a two-year degree program, or that has a similar mission. None of the institutions offer programming that intentionally targets first-year, high-achieving students with financial need.

“The conversation and research about how to best support students during their first year in college shows that two-year students stand to benefit just as much, if not more than, four-year students,” said Rayane Alamuddin, co-author of the report and associate director for research and evaluation at Ithaka S+R. “Our study places the spotlight on institutions that enroll this underserved population and focuses on understanding what they do as an important first step to supporting them and their students.”

One in four high school students in the nation’s top academic quartile from families in the bottom socioeconomic quartile will enroll in a two-year (or less than two-year) college initially out of high school. Community colleges and other public two-year institutions have an opportunity to identify and nurture their potential.

Read the full report: First-Year Student Support: Supporting High-Achieving First-Year Students at Public Two-Year Institutions.


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded $190 million in scholarships to nearly 2,500 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The Foundation has also provided over $100 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.

Media Contact: Amber Styles, 571-442-0772,