Below is a guest blog by Dr. Eric Wearne of Georgia Gwinnett College and formerly with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. Dr. Wearne currently leads GCO’s College & Career Pathways working group.
GCO’s college and career readiness working group met at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville last week to continue the “college” aspect of its work. The group specifically focused on high remediation rates, communication between high schools and colleges regarding expectations, and issues often faced by first-generation college students. Here is a closer look at some take-aways from this meeting:
- High remediation rates. University System of Georgia (USG) institutions offer three remedial, or “learning support” courses, in reading, English, and math. Whether needing remediation in one area or more than one, Georgia students have historically enrolled in these courses at what seem like high rate. In Fall 2008 (the most recent data reported by USG), USG institutions enrolled 46,500 first-time freshmen. Of those 46,500, 11,603, or 25 percent, were required to take at least one learning support course based on USG requirements. Perhaps the numbers have improved over the past 5 years, but this surely remains a problem.
- High school – college communication. The USG actually has a set of high school curriculum requirements for entering freshmen. But even a student who earns all of the credits on this list could need learning support in multiple areas, based on placement test scores. At a high level, agencies and institutions have been communicating for years about the transition from high school to college, from USG’s high school credit requirements to the career pathways initiative to Complete College Georgia. More communication at a finer-grain level, such as between college faculty and high school teachers in specific content areas, is an area the group spent significant time discussing, and will continue to refine.
- First-generation college students. Finally, the group also explored issues related to first-generation college students. Skills like learning the diligence to wake up, go to campus, attend class, pay attention, and stay the whole time—without anyone telling the student to do so – are skills that many students are not necessarily forced to practice in high school. Many can even graduate without them. Add to this the lack of a family member with experience in building a college schedule, or navigating financial aid, and it becomes much clearer why many first-generation college students struggle on campus. Georgia Gwinnett College provides significantly more individual mentoring for students, as well as much more “intrusive” advising; the college actually attempts to find students who may be struggling, and reach out to them, rather than passively waiting for students who need help to find a campus advising or tutoring center. These efforts have borne results, as GGC has retention rates much higher than comparable institutions; rates that, in fact, sometimes rival the retention rates at Research I institutions.
These areas are part of the framework of the group’s efforts at finding practical solutions to improve the college readiness of Georgia students. Next month, the group will focus on issues specific to “career” readiness, and will work toward preliminary recommendations, and a report on the first stage of its work.