This community college startup may be the prototype for student success

"We realized we need to do something in the community college space to improve those graduation and retention rates," says Kaari Casey, vice president of Academic Affairs at Campus.

Community colleges are in dire need of support as more reports convey just how few of their students are succeeding. Some colleges have succeeded in employing mentorship opportunities and finding innovative ways to support their students financially to help boost retention rates. However, the two-year colleges using these tactics are few and far between.

One community college launched in 2022 may be the collective answer to all these problems.

Campus is a hybrid community college attempting to reimagine affordability and student support and double the typical completion rates for community college students, all the while ensuring its staff are working at a competitive wage. An offshoot of the learning management software Campuswire, it launched its institution after understanding the colleges of today were falling short of their mission.

“We realized we need to do something in the community college space to improve those graduation and retention rates,” says Kaari Casey, vice president of Academic Affairs at Campus.

Campus begins by ensuring all of its programs’ costs do not increase beyond the Pell Grant maximum award to ensure eligible students will not have to pay out-of-pocket expenses. Secondly, Campus snuffs the digital divide by paying for each student’s Chromebook laptop and WiFi.

Only after Campus provides its under-resourced students a solid foundation to succeed does it begin to stress its curriculum. It offers three associate degrees and nine certificates accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

As practical as some of the diplomas are, whether they be in paralegal studies or phlebotomy, Dan Goldsmith, an adjunct professor at Campus, describes how the institution’s pedagogy focuses on instilling in learners a set of transferable, applied skills that can translate to a four-year degree education, direct employment or toward entrepreneurial endeavors.

How Campus supports its staff

Goldsmith is also an adjunct professor for the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Campus academics are fueled by the contributions of faculty members from other elite institutions who teach on Campus as well. On its roster are academics from Vanderbilt University, Princeton University, and New York University, among others.

It’s easy for professors across the nation to gravitate to Campus when it offers to pay adjunct teachers about $8,000 per class, according to AfroTechwhich is double the national average. Such a gracious financial incentive is meant to pique many professors’ interests, as the sector they work in has recently taken a poor turn in compensating its employees.

“In the context of [UMD’s business school], the adjuncts have an awful lot of support, but in many other places, that is not true,” he says. “I absolutely have colleagues who are making slightly more than someone working at Starbucks and are responsible for the education of dozens and dozens of people.”

Aside from compensation, Goldsmith and other faculty he works with have experienced a deep satisfaction working with Campus due to its mission of prioritizing student success through its wraparound support services and offering personalized mentorship opportunities. Campuswire’s ability to facilitate professors with high-touch individualized coaching and tutoring for students has created in them an almost paternal-like care for their success, according to Goldsmith. As a result, the institutional support for students is well-reciprocated by students.

“The people that are here are here because they want to be here, and they’re super invested, and it makes us want to work harder for them because they are trying to do their best,” says Goldsmith. “We just want to help them succeed in any way we can.”

Professors’ competitive salary rates, coupled with the institutions’ foundation mission for student success, frees up their ability to focus on what matters, rather than being burdened by demands to meet their basic living needs or meeting course completion quotas, Goldsmith asserts.

“Campus has really built a model where all of those barriers between instructors and students are torn down,” he says.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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