Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Nonprofits (C2E Partnerships)


Through partnership, community colleges and nonprofits are able to better serve the diverse needs of student populations.

Few community colleges and nonprofit organizations can address the educational and employment challenges of unemployed and underemployed workers alone. Through C2E partnerships, community colleges and nonprofit organizations are able to work together and support students towards educational and employment success.

While each C2E partnership is unique in how it delivers services, there are numerous common benefits to all parties involved. By pulling together resources and expertise, nonprofits and community colleges are able to expand the range of services and training opportunities in their communities. For the students, finding and keeping good jobs is closer to a reality as a result of the partnerships’ services.

Connect Students to Support Services Not Typically Offered by Community Colleges

Often the students served by the partnerships have inadequate and unsteady incomes that make it difficult to balance school, work, and family commitments. Nonprofits in these partnerships help low-income students receive support services that are not traditionally offered by community colleges. These services can help improve retention rates for students with barriers to completing training programs. Below, see the most common types of support services offered to students and the percentage of surveyed partnerships that offer the service.

  1. Case management/coordination of personal support services (91%)
  2. Financial assistance for tuition and other fees, not including federal financial aid (82%)
  3. Motivational support activities (80%)
  4. Transportation assistance (76%)
  5. Assistance obtaining uniforms, clothing, or tools or supplies for work (72%)
  6. Financial planning (financial literacy, debt counseling, credit score counseling, etc.) (72%)
  7. Assistance obtaining public benefits (food stamps, TANF, Medicare) (68%)
  8. Assistance with academic and financial issues (68%)

“The nonprofit provides significant intensive services that the college cannot provide every student.”

Colleges Are Better Able to Serve Nontraditional Student Populations

C2E partnerships help community colleges more effectively work with underserved populations who may have a variety of barriers that can make pursuing education particularly challenging. Typically, partnerships are designed to serve nontraditional students, with the most common being low-income individuals, adults with limited work history, youth between 18 and 26, and racial and ethnic minorities.

“We are able to reach persons in the community that might feel intimidated about coming to the college on their own for the first time.”

There are numerous ways in which C2E partnerships with nonprofits can help colleges better meet the needs of nontraditional students. Some examples of ways C2E partnerships with nonprofits can facilitate colleges’ enrollment and registration of students are listed below.

Ways Nonprofits Can Support Students’ Entry into Community College

Common enrollment challenge faced by nontraditional student at college

Service delivered by nonprofit as a solution

College applications: Online college applications are difficult and some questions are misunderstood. Nonprofit helps students complete applications in a supervised setting.
College placement exams:  Adult learners often lack the necessary basic skills or computer literacy needed to pass college placement exams to enter for-credit classes. Nonprofit offers intensive college preparatory class to help nontraditional students build basic skills before taking the exam.
Financial aid applications and processes: Nontraditional students may find it difficult to complete FAFSA, may lose personal identification numbers, or lack needed documentation. Students complete a FAFSA in a supervised setting with nonprofit staff. The nonprofit partner manages correspondence for the participant with the college financial aid office.
Logistics of enrollment and registration:  Adult learners may find competing demands with so much to do in enrollment and registration, including applying for college, taking placement exams, applying for financial aid, and registering for classes. The college sends an “enrollment team” of their staff to the nonprofit’s facility to present to a group of nontraditional students.
Registration holds:  Adult learners may not be able to register for classes due to unpaid parking fines, library charges, tuition, or fees. College staff temporarily lifts a registration hold and the nonprofit pays the fine.
Inadequate career advising upon entry:  Adult learners may receive inconsistent advice about which careers to pursue, which courses to take, or when to take them. Case managers at the nonprofit provide supplemental advising and manage correspondence with community college counselors.


Expanded Access to Training Opportunities for Nonprofits’ Clients, Including Improved Access to College Credentials

For nonprofits, the partnerships open up quality training opportunities for their participants, allows them to obtain industry-recognized credentials, and improves their education and employment outcomes.

“Partnering with the college provides our participants with additional educational resources, opportunities to increase their skills, and greater chances of finding substantial employment.”

See the types of training provided to students served by the partnership.


Improved Employment Outcomes for Students

Surveyed partnerships said students experience improved employment outcomes. Taking into consideration that partnerships generally focus on serving low-income students who are may struggle in a college setting without adequate supports, the outcomes described below are positive results.

Partnerships Improve the Likelihood of Getting a Job or Better Job

More than 4 out of 5 nonprofits said a student served by their partnership typically obtains employment in a training-related field, obtains any kind of employment, and/or receives a wage increase or promotion.


These Positive Employment Outcomes are Linked to the Partnerships’ Ability to Better Meet Industry and Business Needs

In many cases, both community colleges and nonprofits in C2E partnerships engage with industry and employers to understand the needs of the local labor market and better prepare students to navigate the market. Community colleges and nonprofit organizations reported that their collaborations allowed them to better meet industry and business needs than either could alone.

By working together, the partnerships are able to gather information from business at various points and better meet students’ educational and employment needs. Typically, community colleges utilize industry advisory panels to help establish and update informed curricula, while nonprofits typically engage industry directly by systematically gathering information about job openings, projections of demand for various positions, and other industry-specific information that allows nonprofits to assist participants to choose, enter, and advance in a career. In C2E partnerships, these roles are enhanced with both sides working together towards similar objectives.

Examples of key industry engagement strategies found in C2E partnerships are listed below:

  • Work with employers to inform curriculum design
  • Work with employers to develop and coordinate internship programs
  • Work with employers to build networks for job referral
  • Work with employers to identify specific job and career opportunities

Partnerships Boost Supports that Help Students Find and Keep Jobs.

In addition to helping students improve their workplace skills, many C2E partnerships offer labor market navigation services aimed at helping students find and retain jobs. Surveyed partnerships reported the following:

  • Nine out of ten partnerships provide job search assistance, help with resumes or interview preparation for students.
  • 73 percent provide post-placement career counseling and navigation services.
  • Nearly 70 percent help students connect to internship opportunities.
  • 66 percent help students find interim jobs while in training.

The full set of survey responses on types of job placement and retention supports provided by C2E partnerships are shown below.