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  • Regina Wheeler

A Partner in Strengthening Institutions

Updated: Feb 18

During my nine-year tenure at Pacific Research and Evaluation, one of the most rewarding aspects of my work has been the opportunity to cultivate partnerships with community colleges across the country. We have gained much of this experience through the evaluation of federal grants including the Department of Labor TAACCCT grants, National Science Foundation grants, and—most recently—Department of Education Title III and Title V grants. These projects have expanded my knowledge about the important and complex role that community colleges play in providing students an affordable education that helps them obtain industry-recognized certificates leading to employment opportunities, as well as transferable credits.


Most notably, community colleges provide accessible education to a wide range of potential students including first-generation college students, low-income students, BIPOC students, varying generations of students, and students who are balancing other endeavors such as jobs and families. The world of higher education is not always set up to support these traditionally underserved populations that may be unfamiliar with how to navigate college. The Title III and Title V grants strive to strengthen these institutions and have allowed community colleges to incorporate student-centered services and programs to better meet the needs of these students.


I have worked with Title III and Title V community college partners who are offering a variety of supports that are considered best-practices in higher education such as First Year Experience programs and courses, holistic advising, early alerts and student tracking software, faculty mentoring, peer coaching and tutoring, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, and cohort models. Through our community college partnerships our research has revealed a true passion from college faculty and staff for creating an accessible educational experience for all students.


Even during the recent shift to distance learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community college partners have continued to meet the needs of students by expanding the modalities in which advisors, faculty mentors, and tutors provide students support such as through Zoom meetings and phone calls. Some of our partners have commented that this shift has helped them understand how they can meet the needs of even more students after the pandemic as virtual modalities allow them to meet with busy students who cannot always come to campus due to work and family obligations.


Through our research efforts we have identified obstacles colleges face with grant implementation and have revealed creative ways to overcome them. These hurdles have included the need for campus-wide grant support, the importance of communication with students to enhance awareness of programs, and the value in addressing institutionalization early in the grant.


For more information on Title III and Title V evaluations, you can download the infographic below, which describes some lessons learned from these evaluations, or you can contact us at info@pacific-research.org.


"PRE is the external evaluator for Mt. Hood Community College's Title III Strengthening Institutions grant. PRE consistently delivers the evaluations required to meet grant objectives, while providing clear, actionable data reporting that helps our team effectively strategize grant activities. The PRE team was especially helpful and flexible as we shifted course with grant deliverables and needed adjustments to our evaluation approach."

-Mt. Hood Community College Title III Grantee



Title III_V Infographic
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