Joe Wyatt
Published August 30, 2017

Amarillo College earns top marks from students, placing it above the mean and, in one instance, in the top 10 percentile for community colleges nationwide.

In the 2017 Community College Survey of Student Engagement report students at Amarillo College note an engaging faculty, heightened academic standards, and superior support beyond the classroom.

Success Is AC NewshpKnown as the CCSSE, the survey of student engagement is administered every three years by the Program for Higher Education Leadership, a division of The University of Texas at Austin. The 2017 survey benchmarked 297 schools from 40 states in five areas of student engagement: active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners.

About 900 AC students participated in the CCSSE this past spring. Their responses relating to institutional practices and student behaviors that promote student engagement will help AC better understand student learning and persistence, inform decision-making, and target specific areas for institutional improvement.

“This is gratifying and compelling confirmation of the effectiveness of our student-success initiatives,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, said. “It’s a clear signal that our genuinely committed faculty and staff are committed to our students, and that our students are meeting challenges and achieving their dreams at a College that’s adamant about making their success its foremost priority.”

CCSSE standardizes the five benchmark scores so that the mean of the scores is always 50. AC’s scores in each benchmark area are:

  • Active and Collaborative Learning – 54.9
  • Student Effort – 55.7
  • Academic Challenge – 52.9
  • Student-Faculty Interaction – 53.4
  • Support for Learners – 59.7

In the category of Support for Learners, AC’s score of 59.7 places the College in the top 10 percent of all colleges surveyed, of which the average score was 58.4. Since the CCSSE was last administered in 2014, AC has made nationally-recognized improvements in the area of student support. Most notably is the College’s commitment to addressing student poverty as a barrier for student success and the No Excuses philosophy.

The CCSSE is designed to provide information on how students spend their time, what they feel they have gained from their classes, how the college supports their learning, and how they assess the quality of their interactions with faculty, counselors and peers.

Students could choose “never, very little, some, quite a bit, very often,” etc., in responding to statements on the survey. Examples are:

  • Worked with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments.
  • Encouraging you to spend significant amounts of time studying.
  • Worked with other students on projects during class.
  • Asked questions in class or contributed to class discussions.
  • Received prompt feedback (written or oral) from instructors on your performance.
  • Worked with instructors on activities other than coursework.
  • Worked harder than you thought you could to meet an instructor’s standards or expectations.
  • Helping you cope with your non-academic responsibilities (work, family, etc.).
  • Providing the support you need to thrive socially.

“Research shows that the more actively engaged students are – with faculty and staff, with other students, and with the subject matter – the more likely they are to learn and to achieve their academic goals,” Lowery-Hart said.

“The results of this survey tell us that our students are using critical thinking, teamwork and an appropriate investment of time to ensure their success, and that other supports within the College are making a difference,” he said. “This motivates us to redouble our efforts to remove barriers to student success.”