Department of Educational Administration


Document Type


Date of this Version



Community College Journal of Research and Practice 45:10 (2021), pp. 756–772.

doi: 10.1080/10668926.2020.1797598


Copyright © 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


Community colleges increasingly turn to various types of student success courses for their potential as high-impact practices to foster college completion. Despite commonly held assumptions of what characterizes these interventions, upon close inspection there is an unscrutinized, circular confounding of their goals and means which limits the ability of educators to design, deliver, and assess them adequately. In this mixed methods study of 45 community college student success programs across the United States, we show how a sociocultural perspective helps to clarify the espoused versus enacted curriculum of student success courses and to explain the problematic tendency to continuously expand their curricular scope. Additionally, findings reveal the latent salience that instructors place on developing self-awareness and a college-going identity, notions rarely invoked as justification for student success courses to the same degree as instrumentalist notions of skills, navigation, and career planning valued by the traditional completion agenda discourse.