SBC coaches engage in providing the general kinds of supports proven helpful in research about beginning college outcomes for students. Connecting students to resources, helping them plan their coursework and identify a major, and developing a positive relationship with coaches have all been identified as mechanisms by which supports may improve outcomes for community college students in particular. Two-thirds of SBC coaches reported that connecting students to resources on and off campus is an important component of transition coaching. Coaches and students communicated with one another through a variety of methods; generally, coaches relied upon the modes students most preferred—text, email and in-person.
In 2014-2015 the SBC program, as a whole, was providing support services on those topics aligned with prior research findings about the specific factors linked with college persistence and graduation, including financial aid support, course selection, time management, connecting students to resources, setting goals, and selecting a course of study. Importantly, students concurred that their coaches were most helpful when providing support about these same topics. Coaches described two other central components of their work with students, including helping students learn to advocate for themselves, and developing the confidence to succeed, through encouraging students to meet with professors to discuss course requirements, seek out support services, and identify and apply for internships.
Prior research also suggests that the amount of communication and contact coaches have with students may contribute to improved college-related outcomes.ix SBC coaches and students communicate frequently, as evidenced by the nearly 9,000 transition support interactions recorded for the 2014-2015 school year. Yet these same data suggest variability in nonprofit organizations' expectations about how often coaches should engage with students each semester. To ensure that all students receive a consistent threshold of coaching support, perhaps stakeholders could consider whether to establish a minimum number of interactions between coaches and their students or minimum amount of one-on-one coaching each semester.
The findings summarized in this brief illustrate how the SBC program has continued to help collegeentering students navigate their first years in college. They also suggest possible connections between aspects of program implementation and later accomplishments—connections to be explored in subsequent reports about key student outcomes. The findings also point to some challenges faced by the nonprofit organizations, especially in terms of managing large and sometimes widely dispersed caseloads of students. Those coaches with caseloads of 60-plus students lamented the lack of adequate time with individual students, and coaches whose caseloads were distributed across multiple campuses faced logistical hurdles in managing multiple college calendars and spending valuable time traveling between campuses. These impediments hindered coaches' capacity to support students effectively. Over the coming years, as SBC triples the number of students to be served, helping coaches and organizations manage these barriers will be even more critical.