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What do you know about first-year full-time RRC students?

May 6, 2013

Most colleges and universities rely on student application data to develop student profiles, based on characteristics such as age, gender, and ethnicity.  Some institutions use survey data to supplement this resource, as it provides a broader understanding of what students are like.  Red River College falls into the latter group, using the Paths to Success survey to better understand who students are and how the college can more effectively support them in their studies.

This post looks at some of the characteristics of students who participated in the Paths to Success initiative over the last 4 years. While the Paths to Success survey does not cover all first year students it represents approximately 80% of this population, and is considered to be representative of first-year students overall.

Note: The Paths to Success initiative is targeted to first-year, full-time students who are just beginning their studies.  Now in its eighth year, the initiative engages over 1,750 students each year from over 55 programs across the college.

Most students look to the RRC website for information

Just over 70% of students research their program on the RRC website before beginning their studies.  Aside from program brochures, this is the only place where students can get detailed documented information on their program, including a program overview, course descriptions, contact information, admission requirements, and employment potential. Given that 30% don’t research their program on the web, it begs the question why they don’t use this resource.

Paths Program Research

Source: Paths to Success (2009-2012), n=5951

The next most common method for learning about a program is program orientation sessions (60% attend these sessions).  Some programs make their orientation sessions mandatory, while others recommend that students attend. By comparison, a much smaller percentage of students meet with a coordinator / instructor (14%) and/or with an academic advisor (18%).

A third of students (33%) say they spoke with a current RRC student or a graduate pre-entry.  This underlies one of the most common ways that students choose a program through a referral from someone they know who has graduated from the program or college.

 About one in four students come from a family where neither parent attended College or University

Some 28% of students report that neither of their parents / guardians attended College or university.  Among the remainder, two-thirds had either one parent/guardian (32%) who attended post-secondary education or both parents (34%).  Interestingly, some 7% weren’t sure if their parents had attended post-secondary education.

Paths Parents Post-Sec

Source: Paths to Success (2009-2012), n=5877

Most full-time students are in the workforce prior to coming to College

Almost half of all students (47%) cite “working full-time” as their main activity during the 12 month period prior to coming to RRC, while a further 10% say they were working part-time.  This pattern differentiates RRC from Manitoba universities and colleges in other provinces which draw more heavily on the high school student population, as only 13% of RRC students report coming directly from high school.

While Red River College has a relatively large proportion of students who have previously attended University and/or College relatively few (only 18%) sequentially go to RRC from their previous post-secondary.

Paths Main Activity

Source: Paths to Success (2011-2012), n=3393

Combining Work and Study

The majority of students (70%) expect to work while studying. About one in five (22%) expect to work less than 10 hours a week, 37% say they will work 11 to 20 hours a week, while the other 12% say they expect to work more than 21 hours a week.  Interestingly,
research from Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation would suggest working
off campus for more than 17 hours per week does increase the risk of a student not
completing their program of study. Anecdotally many of these students decrease the amount of time they work once courses start, and they realize how much they need to study to succeed in College.

Paths Working Habits

Source: Paths to Success (2009-2012), n=5516