Our nation faces a critical
challenge. Too many students begin college unprepared for college work
and too many fail in their efforts to obtain a college degree. The challenge
is particularly great in the urban centers of our nation and among poorer
students from traditionally underrepresented groups, in particular African
Americans and Hispanic Americans. The result is that recent gains in increasing
access to college have not been translated to similar increases in college
graduation. Nor have they led to any significant closing of the gap in
rates of college completion between groups in our society.
The challenge we face is exacerbated
by the fact that the colleges serving under-prepared and under-represented
students are themselves ill prepared to deal with the substantial remedial
needs students bring to the classroom. This is the case not only because
of limited resources, but also because of the paucity of models of effective
interventions that institutions can draw upon to guide their actions.
The fact remains that there has been no systematic effort to identify
successful academic intervention programs and none that have sought to
ascertain to what degree those programs lead to successful completion
of college over the long-term.
That is until now. With a $956,000
grant from the Lumina Foundation
for Education, the Higher Education Program at Syracuse University
is carrying out a national longitudinal study that seeks to ascertain
the impact of innovative academic assistance programs, specifically those
employing learning communities and collaborative learning strategies,
on the long-term retention and success of under-prepared urban community
and state college students in different urban settings. Students will
be followed over three-years to determine to what degree and in what manner
program participation enhances student persistence, transfer, and, with
future funding, eventual two- and four-year degree completion. We have also recieved a three-year grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
This new grant will allow us to add an additional community college site and extend our work with other schools in California.
The project is housed in the Higher
Education Program at Syracuse University and is co-directed by Vincent
Tinto, Chair of the Higher Education Program and Cathy McHugh Engstrom,
Associate Professor of Education. It is being carried out in collaboration
with the staff of the Community College
Survey of Student Engagement Project at the University of Texas, Austin,
and is guided by an advisory board comprised of researchers and two and
four-year college leaders who provide advice on issues of institutional
selection and the use of research methodologies that are sensitive to the
diverse cultural backgrounds of students typically found in urban two and
four year colleges.