Monday, July 04, 2016

GETTING THE DEGREE - Innovative Program for Poor Students

"Innovative program helps even the playing field for poor students — and boost graduation rates" PBS NewsHour 6/28/2016


SUMMARY:  For Georgia State’s Tyler Mulvenna, a $900 grant from an innovative retention program let him live on campus, work less and do what he came to do: study.  The school, worried about abysmal graduation rates for poor students found, a full course load, commuting and holding a job was just too much for many.  The NewsHour's April Brown takes a look at the program praised by President Barack Obama.

ANGELICA SANCHEZ, Student:  Georgia State is definitely a school that I fell in love with even before I came to college.

APRIL BROWN (NewsHour):  When Angelica Sanchez was a high school senior, she knew she was going to college, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to get to Georgia State.

ANGELICA SANCHEZ:  My parents didn’t go to college, but my brother, my sister and I — we are first generation students.

APRIL BROWN:  Apart from finding the funding, Sanchez, like many other first generation college-goers, needed help navigating the new world of higher education.

ANGELICA SANCHEZ:  I was actually really worried, just because my parents are very traditional, so they don’t — and they don’t really know what college is.

APRIL BROWN:  About 10 years ago, the university realized it had a persistent achievement gap.  Many of its low-income, minority and first generation students were graduating less often and dropping out more frequently than their white counterparts.  That’s when the school started aggressively using data to find solutions.

TIM RENICK, Vice Provost:  Our overall graduation rates hovered around 30 percent, far too low.

APRIL BROWN:  Tim Renick is Vice Provost at Georgia State.

TIM RENICK:  We knew we had to change, we knew we had to serve students better, but we also knew that we didn’t have a lot of resources.  What we did have is the data.

APRIL BROWN:  They had a lot of data, and began analyzing it to figure out what was tripping up students.

TIM RENICK:  We went back, we looked at over two-and-a-half million Georgia State grades, 140,000 student records.  And what we found in the data were about 800 different things, 800 things that, in a statistically significant way, correlated to students flunking out or dropping out of Georgia State.

APRIL BROWN:  Those 800 things, from whether students register for the right classes to their grades, are monitored for every student by academic advisers like Tony Davis.

How do we know that they’re on track?

TONY DAVIS, Academic Advisor:  So, what’s happened is the department — so the nursing department in this case — has identified several key courses as marker courses, so they need to be taken within a certain time frame, and they’re looking for a minimum grade.

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