Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

New Programs at South Texas and Brazosport Take Students to Grasuation

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

New Programs at South Texas and Brazosport Take Students to Grasuation

Article excerpt

What does it take to get students who are unprepared for the rigors of college to stay in school and persist to graduation? Two schools in Texas are providing some answers through programs designed to improve retention and completion rates. These programs are producing positive results, especially for Latino students.

Brazosport College in Texas, with an enrollment of approximately 4,200, instituted a required student success course, Learning Frameworks, after recognizing that many students not only lacked academic preparation, but aso were not aware of what it takes to succeed in college.

Over the years, the college experienced high rates of attrition as students became discouraged when they could not make it through developmental courses. At Brazosport, 57 percent of degree-seeking students need remedial courses, which are the gatekeepers to college-level work and a degree.

College officials decided it was time to develop a clear and focused agenda to help these students succeed. One of the major components of that agenda is a three-credit required course, Learning Frameworks, billed as a kind of "on-the-job training" for those who need to acclimate to the higher education experience. The foundations of this course are what Dr. Lynda Villanueva, associate dean of instruction at Brazosport, describes as "skill and will."

"Students need skills like effective time management, note taking, writing and test preparation in order to learn efficiently," she said.

But the course also tries to motivate students and give them the will to succeed.

"A lot of these students have never heard 'You can do this' and ? believe in you,'" said Villanueva. "Our students learn confidence in setting their own educational, career and personal goals."

The Learning Frameworks course, which students take as either EDUC 1300 or PSYC I3OO, was piloted in 2007 and now has served more than 5,800 students. It is college-level and transferable.

Many students in the course are going to college for the first time. Some are right out of high school while others haven't been to school in over 20 years. Their backgrounds might include those who find themselves having to start a new career after a recent divorce or job loss. No matter what their circumstances, they all need help making the transition to college.

"We actually have two primary populations of students who are required to take the class," said Villanueva. "The first is all first-time-in- college degree-seeking students. The second population is all students (regardless of first-time status) who test into developmental education classes."

The course tries to change the typical attitude from one in which students rely on instructors to feed them information to one in which students take responsibility for learning and find relevance and meaning in their studies. There are lessons in practical skills, such as note taking, preparing for exams, using the library and Internet for research, managing time and handling stress. Just as important, the course encourages behaviors that lead to success, such as setting goals, overcoming obstacles and seeking help when needed.

Now that Learning Frameworks has been offered for a few years, there has been enough time to assess the outcomes and evaluate various aspects of the course. Villanueva and her colleagues are pleased with the results.

"After compiling data for three years, we know that students who take Learning Frameworks are much more likely to be successful in their developmental coursework," she said. "They also are more likely to do better in their college-level English and math courses and less likely to withdraw than students who do not take Learning Frameworks."

Learning Frameworks has been especially effective in increasing Latino student success. Not only are students who take the course, including Latinos, 30 percent more likely to stay in college, but they also are part of the profile of those who are more successful in their coursework. …

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