Student Engagement

Student engagement is the psychological investment a student makes in learning. This includes the degree to which a student actively participates in academic and cocurricular activities on the campus, pursuing contact with faculty outside the classroom, involvement in civic activities and service learning, and participation in cocurricular learning.

Strategic planning for curriculum and campus activities that engage students requires broad collaboration across campus divisions. A variety of best practices are available to campuses developing strategic plans to engage students. Creating a campus that engages students in all aspects of college life requires careful planning, use of best practices, and collaboration between academic and student services professionals.

Plan to engage students inside and outside the classroom.

Student engagement does not occur in one place on campus, but across campus. Therefore, strategic planning should involve coordinated efforts at creating cocurricular opportunities that extend the classroom to the campus, the community, and beyond. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) documents a number of best practices by schools across the country to use as models.

Planners should work to increase student civic engagement.

A growing number of institutions are using strategic planning to expand their commitment to civic education, developing opportunities for students to develop personal and social responsibility inside and outside the classroom through service learning, volunteerism, and exposure to global perspectives. These efforts have yielded a number of successful outcomes. Lessons from these endeavors have been compiled to serve as a guide for institutions beginning the process.

Link student engagement plans with safe and supportive environments.

Recent research has found a direct link between civic engagement and student wellness, leading to a concept known as “flourishing.”  An entire issue of AAC&U’s journal, Liberal Education, is devoted to this connection, providing strategic planners with a variety of ideas and pathways for linking these concepts.



Featured Resources

Cover image of the Women’s Student Debt Crisis in the United States resource

Offers a broad overview of how student debt became a women’s issue. The report aims to change the conversation around student debt so that it includes gender-based analysis and solutions. The analysis examines the experiences of women as a diverse population and presents statistics by race and ethnicity as well as other demographics. The report relies heavily on publicly available federal government survey data as well as published studies undertaken by academics and organizations researching the issue of student debt.

Examines graduate rates over the last ten years and the degree to which general increases are also being experienced by underrepresented groups. Using data from four-year, public colleges and universities, this report found that nearly 67% have increased graduation rates in the last 10 years — not only overall (5.3 percentage points) but for underrepresented students as well (6.3 percentage points). Yet, findings also indicate that intentional efforts to close the achievement gap matter, concluding that colleges should continue to emphasize completion efforts for underrepresented groups 

Kimberlee Eberle-Sudre, Meredith Welch, and Andrew Howard Nichols

Presents the video footage of a panel discussion at Columbia University's Community College Research Center. Includes expert analysis of the Guided Pathways Model for Institution-Wide Reforms and its potential to help community colleges improve student success.

Thomas Bailey; Shanna Smith Jaggars; Davis Jenkins; David Baime; Paul Fain
Cover image of the Helping Women to Succeed in Higher Education: Supporting Student-Parents with Child Care resource

Proposes building on the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Program to structure an institutional grant program that better supports the availability of high-quality child care for parents pursuing postsecondary credentials (student-parents). Compared with the existing federal program, the proposed program would be larger and better targeted to address the substantial needs of low income student-parents. The program would encourage enrollment practices and educational investments that benefit the individual as well as the overall economy.

Bridget Terry Long
Cover image of the College Completion Toolkit resource

Highlights promising practices from a dozen schools across the country that are doing the hard work of increasing college completion rates for students on their campuses. The report contains links to resources and stories written by institutions themselves and will serve as an additional resource for schools as they seek to promote student degree completion.

Provides federal guidance for colleges and universities that aims to help remove barriers that can prevent citizens with criminal records from pursuing higher education, including considering the effect of inquiring early in the application process whether prospective students have ever been arrested. The guide also encourages alternatives to inquiring about criminal histories during college admissions and provides recommendations to support a holistic review of applicants. 

U.S. Department of Education

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