LaGuardia Community College’s Blueprint for Student Success


April is Community College Month, a time to celebrate institutions like LaGuardia Community College (Long Island City, New York) that serve as beacons of opportunity for diverse student populations. Believing in the Potential of Every Student: A Case Study on LaGuardia Community College, a new case study by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), outlines how LaGuardia’s student-centered approach and deep commitment to delivering postsecondary value results in strong outcomes for their diverse student body—81 percent of whom are students of color, 39 percent are Pell recipients, and more than half identify as first-generation.

In an analysis using data from the Equitable Value Explorer, IHEP researchers identified LaGuardia as an exemplar within the Equitable Value Movement – a growing movement in higher education to look beyond equitable access and completion towards ensuring students from all backgrounds receive postsecondary value. IHEP’s Equitable Value Explorer allows users to compare post-college earnings across institutions and student populations. Typical LaGuardia students earn approximately $46,500 a year, ten years after initial enrollment, which is nearly $7,000 more than what they would need to break even on their college investment and roughly $5,000 more than typical associate degree holders in the state of New York. This sets students on the path to achieving their goals, such as attaining financial stability and reaching their career aspirations.

Through interviews with LaGuardia administrators, faculty, and students, IHEP researchers identified four institutional strategies to equitably deliver postsecondary value to students, setting them on a path toward upward mobility:

  1. Understand student needs and aspirations to inform policymaking - LaGuardia leaders make policy and practice decisions predicated on understanding students’ backgrounds, needs, and aspirations, with the aim of creating clear pathways to academic and workforce success. Being student-centered is core to how LaGuardia leadership approaches their work.
  2. Reduce bureaucratic burden on students – Not only do LaGuardia leaders identify areas that create inequities in persistence, retention, and success, they address them. This is especially evident in the ways the institution has worked to support academic transitions, for example when students carry credits from nondegree programs into degree programs or transfer to four-year institutions. Rather than leaving students to navigate complicated pathways or transitions on their own, LaGuardia leaders scrutinize their policies and procedures with a student-centered and equity-focused lens.
  3. Ensure organizational structures reflect student-centered values – LaGuardia’s President Kenneth Adams reorganized the college’s many divisions and departments to better reflect the college’s student-centered approach to delivering postsecondary value. For example, the institution built bridges between the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) division and degree-granting programs, so, as Vice President for Adult and Continuing Education, Sunil Gupta said, “all of our opportunities and doors of access to the college lead to…matriculating opportunities for economic stability and success and also non-credit programs.” 
  4. Leverage external funding to drive innovation - LaGuardia utilizes funding from grants and private donors to increase affordability and invest directly in scholarships and the infrastructure necessary for smooth pathways to student success.

Institutions seeking to learn from LaGuardia’s example and enhance the value they deliver to students should: 

  • Prioritize a student-centered culture. Leaders at LaGuardia understand that every decision must be made with the student experience in mind.
  • Leverage the power of data to drive change and innovation. By utilizing data analytics, LaGuardia identifies areas for improvement and implements targeted interventions to support student success.
  • Proactively identify and take opportunities to smooth student pathways.At LaGuardia, this includes establishing connections between nondegree and academic programs, developing articulation agreements with four-year institutions, and ensuring that students have targeted supports before, during, and after transition points.

As we reflect on the important role of community colleges in providing students, families, and communities economic stability and mobility during Community College Month, we can draw inspiration from LaGuardia Community College's exemplary student success model. By prioritizing a student-centered culture, leveraging data-driven insights, and proactively addressing barriers, LaGuardia offers lessons for delivering equitable postsecondary value. Together, institutions and student success advocates alike can continue championing the transformative power of community colleges in shaping brighter futures for all.

Jessica Vivar is the Government Affairs Associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)


Believing in the Potential of Every Student: A Case Study on LaGuardia Community Collegewas authored by IHEP researchers Janiel Santos, Lauren McLeese, Gabrielle Smith Finnie, and Eleanor Eckerson Peters. To read the full case study, visit Believing in the Potential of Every Student: A Case Study on LaGuardia Community College - IHEP. 

To learn about more innovative institutional strategies that are helping students receive measurable returns on their higher education investment, read Creating a Culture of Data Use: A Case Study on the University of North Texas and Student Success is in the DNA of NAU: An IHEP Case Study on Northern Arizona University.

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