This fall, $2.25 million dollars were donated to Central Oregon Community College by the Department of Education.
A group of COCC faculty, staff and administrators applied for this grant in 2014, hoping to have the money for the 2015-16 academic year. After going through several rounds of evaluation, the grant was not funded for last year, though COCC received a very high rating. This year, even though another application for the grant was not submitted COCC was notified of receiving the grant.
Oregon is ranked 47th in the nation for its funding of higher education, according to the 2014 edition of the State Higher Education Finance Report. The Student Success Grant is a five year, title III grant focused on strengthening institutions. It is awarded to schools in an effort to help college students through earlier parts of their education. This grant allows institutions to expand their capacity to serve and improve student success rates for low-income students by focusing on academic quality, institutional infrastructure and fiscal stability. This grant will be huge in helping students succeed in their college careers.
The student success grant is a three tier component consisting of developmental math redesign, developmental writing redesign, and first year experience. Betsy Julian, vice president for instruction, will be handling the oversight of the first and second tiers, while Alicia Moore, dean of student enrollment and service, will handle the third tier.
The purpose of developmental math redesign (tier one) is to conduct a comprehensive review of developmental level math courses, develop, design and implement the best practice strategies in math. This will include making smaller class sizes and shorter course sequences for students pursuing non-STEM careers. This non-STEM pathway will give students a basic understanding of the specific math they need for their track, this will allow students to spend time on math courses that are related to a specific career or track.
“We want to acknowledge that not everyone is going to be an engineer, mathematician, or scientist. To help with this we want to reduce the time students spend on a certain track, getting them where they need to be faster,” said Julian.
The second tier, developmental writing redesign, will take a broader look at students for track placement, instead of using a one time standardized placement test. One option that is currently considered is allowing students to take earlier classes alongside more advanced classes. An example would be, instead of taking WR-65, WR-95 then WR-121 the idea would be to take WR-121 while taking WR-95 or WR-65 simultaneously to give “in-class tutoring.” This gives the student extra information and support as needed, instead of having them spend an entire term getting this background information in advance.
The idea is that students will often rise to a challenge if asked to do difficult tasks, as long as they are given the support needed to succeed. Currently, COCC tries to teach students all of the background skills and ideas before asking them to apply what they have learned.
“In the new approach we are considering,[students will be] given less training in advance, but more support and instruction while being asked to work on a complex project like writing a research paper,” said Julian. Money from the grant will also be used to purchase laptops for writing classes. These laptops will be used for assignments and research in class.
The third tier, first year experience, has three parts in itself: advising, orientation, and student success classes. “The purpose of this tier is to focus on infrastructure needed to improve student success by working on the basic survival skills needed for college success,” said Moore.
Student success classes would teach students the basics of what they need in order to be successful in the early part of their college career. This will include managing and prioritizing time for studying and tutoring, as well as “free time” outside of school, how to ask teachers for help that will get you “good answers”. New course planning tools are being implemented to help students with long term class preparation. This means instead of going semester to semester students will know in advance what their course load will look like for the duration of an academic year or career.
Along with all these new implementations, a specialized consultant will be brought in to help with the design of these new course planning tools as well as a grant coordinator to oversee the grant and its progress. The earliest implementations of this grant will be done thru research and curriculum development during the winter break with some of the initial changes occurring this academic year in Winter or Spring. The earliest visible changes will be the appearance of more computers in WR-121 classes and changes to the Math 58/98 series. Other changes and additions will be make over the next 4 years.
Bobbie Towery | The Broadside