Community College In Brooklyn Works To Improve Graduation Rates
In the city and across the country, more students than ever are enrolling in community colleges. A stunning percentage of those students never graduate. A program at one community college in Brooklyn is trying to tackle the problem head-on from the moment students arrive on campus. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
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Community colleges are designed to turn out their graduates in two years. But that rarely happens.
Case in point: Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. After three years, just 25 percent of the students graduate. That is the highest graduation rate of any of the city's community colleges.
That's because more and more students are arriving unprepared for college-level work.
"These students come from backgrounds where their educational experience, they've been very disenfranchised," said Mary Beth Dawson, a professor at Kingsborough Community College. "They come to us and they have all these hurdles they need to jump in order to graduate and to get through. And these are possible points where they can drop out of the system."
10 years ago, the college decided to try something new: put first-year students in groups of 25 and have spend their first semester together, studying English, college skills and a liberal arts class, like theater or sociology. The three professors work together to support the students and weave the courses together.
Researchers say that one semester raises graduation rates by 4.6 percent.
"The Learning Communities Program at Kingsborough College is one of the first programs that we've studied in higher education that we've seen effects on graduation," said MDRC Research Associate Michael Weiss.
The college hopes to expand the program even further. Now, about half of first-year students are in learning communities. Administrators anticipate that over the next few years, it could grow to include up to 80 percent of new students.
"The courses are already being offered," said Kingsborough Community College Academic Director Marissa Schlesinger. "The courses are already in demand and the faculty want to teach in this."
Even though most students arrive needing to take remedial courses in subjects like English and math, administrators at Kingsborough believe that can be discouraging. So this program includes a mix of remedial and college level courses, getting students to catch-up and move forward at the same time. Kingsborough hopes it will also continue to help more of them graduate.