Community colleges are truly an American invention that, despite many documented successes, remains controversial. There is a large body of research that criticizes these institutions citing non-successes (Dougherty, 1987, 1994; Brint & Karabel, 1989). Debates whirl not only about the overall outcomes of these institutions, but also about how to measure community college student progress and outcomes. This article specifically promotes the utilization of transcript analysis to document and understand the complex academic behaviors of community college students. Transcripts or the records of student activities that include enrollments, course drops, and grades are important, yet ignored documents that tell the stories of student successes as well as instances of non-success. To illustrate the function of transcript analysis and its uses, a study of community college students enrolled in a very large, urban, multi-college district in a western state is reported in this article.
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