To more fully understand the student experience at community colleges, our research team visited 22 community college campuses across 11 states just ahead of their fall 2014 terms. Across the industry, the weeks before enrollment are widely considered to be peak registration period: a time when students and their extended network of friends and family flood college hallways. Our on-site observations took place in rural, urban, and suburban settings at institutions of various sizes, cultures, and demographic makeups.
The only constant across these visits was our steadfast adoption of the new student perspective. Members of the research team attempted to forget everything they knew about the post-secondary experience and approach each campus as a new student. Campus signage and staff guided us from one step to the next, we documented the experiences of students from a wide range of backgrounds, and we came as close as we could to enrolling in courses for that term.