Learning Communities (LCs) at Colorado State University are a high-impact practice that bring strategically defined cohorts of students together around a common purpose to enrich learning, provide a sense of community, and empower them to become engaged campus and global citizens. The experience is highly structured, integrating within and between curricular and co-curricular elements. In alignment with the CSU Student Success Initiatives, Learning Communities explicitly focus on equity and serve students who are first generation to college (FG), racially minoritized (RM), and/or limited income (defined as Pell recipient).
Reports are compiled on an annual basis to assess demographic characteristics as well as student success outcomes (e.g., persistence, GPA, etc.) of LC participants by most recent cohort. A recent March 2021 report provides a 5-year summary of first-time, full-time (FTFT) learning community students in cohorts FA16 through FA20, comparing their backgrounds and academic outcomes to reference groups comprised of CSU students (including a “CSU Overall” reference group).
Given the breadth of learning community programs at CSU and the diverse students they attract, the March report aims to draw the most apt and relevant comparisons by splitting apart and regrouping LC students together into 5 primary groups:
1) Key Communities, n=2,872
2) College of Natural Sciences Outreach and Social Justice Community (CNS OSJ), n=176
3) Honors Communities, inclusive of both Academic Village and Edwards Hall, n=1,247
4) Engineering Community, n=1,358
5) Other Learning Communities, n=2,418
The March 2021 report finds that Learning Communities continue to serve a diverse population of students, especially within Key Communities and the CNS OSJ LC. Honors and Engineering LCs have the lowest proportion of students from structurally underserved backgrounds while the Other LC group – comprised of the other 9 learning communities on campus – has RM, FG, and Pell representation that tracks closer to that of CSU Overall. Still, these LCs do not appear to keep pace with CSU Overall along RM and FG representation in later cohort years.
When it comes to student success outcomes, Key and CNS OSJ students both appear to overperform relative to their reference group, despite some cohort year-to-cohort year fluctuations that reflect relatively small changes in a small cohort size. Honors and Engineering students also experience higher student success outcomes relative to students at CSU Overall, especially those in Honors LCs. Other LC students persist at about the same rate as students at CSU Overall into their 2nd fall, but hold both higher mean CSU GPAs and lower probation rates in their 1st spring semesters.