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October 05, 2010

Federal grant for Gavilan College will improve student success by focusing on students' first year in college

WHO: The United States Department of Education

WHAT: Has awarded Gavilan College a grant under the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. The grant is for $650,000 per year for five years. The grant application, titled "Focus on the First year: A Student Success Agenda"  describes a two-part project to increase student engagement, success and momentum, especially in Hispanic and low-income students' first year at college.

The first part of the project will provide up-to-date labs and help develop new instructional strategies, integrating instructional technology. Faculty members who have adapted "best learning practices" will serve as "internal experts" to train their colleagues. In pilots of new methods, faculty will assess results and refine strategies as needed. The second part of the project makes it easier for students to enter college by automating assessment testing and placement, launching routine Educational Plans (from a program called DegreeWorks) and developing a mandatory Orientation program. Students will be able to access all new plans and progress information from their own web portals. The project reduces fragmentation of the entrance system and tightens requirements so that more first-year students will not drop out during their most vulnerable year. Instead, more students will start any needed basic skills classes within their first year and more will persist to a enroll in their second year.

The key objectives of the grant are to:
- Increase student engagement and persistence to their second year.
- Increase success rates of students in basic skills and in core courses.
- Reduce performance gaps between Hispanic/low-income and Anglo/mainstream students.
- Increase classroom uses of active or project-based learning and integrated technology.
- Increase student access to current computers and web resources.
- Increase percentage of freshmen completing Educational Plans and Orientation, and taking recommended basic skills courses -- within their first year.
- Increase student progress on 3 key milestones: 12, 20 and 30 College-Level Units.

WHEN: the grant begins October 1, 2010, and will continue for 5 years.

WHY: Data on student success has revealed several key challenges. More than half of entering students who were tested were placed into basic English levels or English as a Second Language. At least 65% of these were Hispanic and 34% were low-income students. Performance gaps exist between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students, especially in overall first-term course completion. In addition, many of those who do succeed in their first skills course do not progress through skills sequences to college-level work. Low success rates in first-year college-level courses suggest that students may not be engaged enough in courses that are the foundation of their academic progress. Many students arrive as "passive learners" and engagement often remains poor when students listen without doing. Faculty require support to develop and incorporate more active learning strategies that require students to collaborate, to solve problems, and to engage in critical thinking.

Pilot programs at Gavilan College have shown that strategies which enhance student engagement can have positive results. The First-Year Experience (FYE), for example, provides services to a limited number of entering freshmen. FYE students take classes together and receive support to strengthen their reading, writing, and study skills while they become familiar with the campus and its resources.  Faculty and peer tutors  provide critical skills support. FYE students had higher success rates (course completion with a C or better) then non-FYE students. Gavilan's two-year Title V STEM grant has encouraged  math and science faculty to integrate technology with their curricula.

The new grant will address challenges by expanding the reach of successful strategies that have been developed in pilot programs to more first-year students, helping them to navigate the entrance process, gain active learning skills, and succeed in moving beyond basic skills to college-level courses.

For more information, contact the Gavilan College Public Information Office at (408) 848-4724.

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Last modified: August 17, 2011
Gavilan College Red Diamond 5055 Santa Teresa Boulevard Red Diamond Gilroy, CA 95020 Red Diamond (408) 848-4800