Navigating the Journey

Encouraging Student Progress through Enhanced Support Services in TAACCCT
Policy Paper
Oct. 7, 2019

During the Great Recession, community colleges emerged as critical first-responders to the sudden and sometimes drastic shifts in the labor market. In 2011, Anoka-Ramsey received a federal grant through Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, a federal initiative designed to help individuals and communities pull through in a difficult economy. Jan was assigned to act as a “navigator” for students in TAACCCT-funded programs at the college, guiding and supporting them throughout their educational journey.

More than 700 colleges received TAACCCT grants and many of them used their funding to create “navigator” positions like Jan’s. Not all of the colleges used the term navigator – some called them career coaches, advisors, or retention specialists. For convenience sake, I will use the term “navigator” throughout the brief. TAACCCT resources empowered colleges to rethink the delivery of student services and to fashion new positions that combined the responsibilities of multiple student services roles into one person while also reducing their caseload of student. This report examines innovations in how navigators’ roles and responsibilities were conceptualized in TAACCCT grantee institutions and offers recommendations for future federal and state investment in community college student services.

There is evidence that TAACCCT positively impacted both educational and labor market outcomes of participants. A recent meta-analysis of third-party grant evaluations found that students in TAACCCTfunded programs were more likely to complete their training and to earn a credential than their peers. They also experienced better labor market outcomes (employment and/or earnings).1 The meta-analysis does not isolate the impact of specific interventions, but among the possible uses of TAACCCT funding, one of the most frequent was to enhance student advising services. Colleges created new positions for navigators who were charged with helping students – many of them adults with little or no college experience – through processes like registration and course selection while also providing a shoulder to lean on. This injection of resources into community colleges through TAACCCT offers a clear opportunity to observe how these often-underfunded institutions expanded and reconceptualized student services when the opportunity arose.

Read the full brief here.