Community College Students’ Perceptions of Their Academic Workload

William Neff


One major barrier to success, for first-time, full-time college students, is course workload (Bowyer, 2012). How students respond to their situation and the barriers they face may influence decisions they make about classes in which they should enroll or those they should avoid, completing or dropping a class during the semester, and persisting from term-to-term and year-to-year. In an effort to help students succeed, colleges often give them a specified set of core courses and a specific or even prescribed pathway to complete the “general education” requirements. These core courses such as mathematics, communication, and English, among others, taken separately might not present any great challenge for well-prepared students. However, for an underprepared student who is directed to take not one, but possibly three or even four of these core courses in their first semester, this could present a huge challenge.

The purpose of this case study is to determine first-time, full-time, students’ perceptions of workload in their first semester at a large southwestern community college. The study will examine students’ expectations regarding their course workload through Tinto’s (2012) conceptual framework for institutional action (Expectations, Support, Assessment and Feedback, Involvement).