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CUNY launches community college experiment

If community college students enrolled full-time, learned basic skills in for-credit classes, took a well-planned schedule of courses together, received mandatory tutoring and counseling . . .  The New Community College, CUNY’s Multimillion-Dollar Experiment in Education, will test whether its intensive program boosta success rates, reports the New York Times.

Of 4,000 students listed the new college on their CUNY application, 504 showed up for the mandatory information session and 339 decided to enroll.

“New” students will take the same classes, although there are two levels of math.

. . .  too often students receive little guidance about how to navigate the system and how to choose a combination of classes that will move them closer to graduation.

“You look at the transcripts of a lot of community college students, and it looks like they stood with their backs to the course catalog and threw darts at it,” said Kay McClenney, director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas, Austin. “They wander into college, wander around the curriculum, and then they wander out the door.”

Basic skills instruction will be built into every course, along with college-level work, so students can begin earning credits immediately.

 The classes will emphasize collaborative and interdisciplinary work. There are none called “History” or “English.” One course, “City Seminar,” will use urban studies to explore government, culture, history and health. Another, “Ethnographies of Work,” will study sociology and business through the lens of various careers, and put students in touch with potential future employers.

All students will attend a three-week bridge program in August.  Once they get started, they’ll be required to use skills labs, peer study groups, tutors and advisers.

 “This is absolutely crucial because so many students appear at the door of community colleges completely clueless about what is required of them, or available to them,” said Ms. McClenney of the University of Texas. “They don’t know they need to do work outside of class. They don’t take advantage of tutoring and mentoring services. They don’t know about peer study groups or interacting with faculty.”

Students also will be required to spend 90 minutes a week in “group work space,” working with classmates on writing and language skills. They’ll also have mandatory weekly 90-minute group sessions with  “student success advocates,” who’ll help develop study skills, deal with stress and cope with problems — before they drop out.

When these strategies are tried in isolation, they have a “modest positive effect” that doesn’t last, said Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia. “This will be a chance to see what happens if you do them together, consistently, over a longer period of time.”

New Community College will spend more than $30,0000 per student in its first year, compared to $10,000 a year for the average full-time CUNY community college student. The price is expected to decline, reaching only about 30 percent more per student. Advocates predict the cost per degree will be much lower. Taxpayers will save money when students spend fewer years in school and leave college as graduates rather than dropouts, they argue.

Of course, if the college works for students who commit to an intensive, highly structured program, that doesn’t mean it will work for the average student.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs
ON July 24, 2012

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[…] took a well-planned schedule of courses, received mandatory tutoring and counseling . . .  Would they earn degrees?  City University of New York’s New Community College will test whether an intensive, highly […]

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