GRCC students show overall rising success in developmental courses

GRCC students show overall rising success in developmental courses

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Student Blessings Arigo works with tutor Toni Garcia in a FastTrack classroom. Photo by Kayla Tucker

Students who enroll in developmental courses through the Academic Foundations Program at Grand Rapids Community College are trending up with higher rates of success in 2016.

The developmental courses are offered to students when they test low on certain subjects and need to refresh their skills. The classes in the program include English (EN 97), Math (MA95, MA96, MA97, MA98), Reading (RD97, RD98) and College Readiness Skills (PY100).

Students who are enrolled in two or more developmental courses are required to take PY100. That course was not factored into the data.

In Fall of 2016, 40.8 percent of GRCC’s student population were enrolled in a developmental course. This accounts for 5,901 students out of the 14,465 total student body during that time. Out of these AFP students, 1,121 completed one course, 767 completed two courses and 472 completed three courses.

In 2010, a little over half of GRCC’s student population were enrolled in developmental courses.

GRCC’s Dean of Student Success and Retention John Cowles attributes the decline in the need for these courses to positive changes in the local K-12 system.

“I think that we have stronger school districts sending us stronger students,” Cowles said before his presentation to the GRCC Board of Trustees at today’s meeting.

Of these students enrolled in fall 2016, 57 percent completed the course with a C or higher.

Comparing the students in the AFP program and those that aren’t, 73 percent of AFP students are staying enrolled from fall to winter, with non-AFP students up slightly higher at 77 percent. From fall to fall, AFP students have a retention rate of 44 percent and non-AFP students are at 51.5 percent. Cowles said these numbers are increasing.

“The more students you can retain, obviously the more students graduate and obtain degrees down the road,” Cowles said.  

For full-time AFP students, there is currently an 11.1 percent graduation rate, with full-time non-AFP students graduating at a rate of 15.3 percent. The AFP transfer rate is higher, at 12.5 percent, while non-AFP students are at 18.6 percent.

“The students who don’t need developmental courses are slightly more successful than students who need developmental education courses,” Cowles said, referring to the data.

Looking to the future, the AFP program is adopting some new changes, including allowing students to take a developmental course along with a college-ready course by integrating the credits together – for example, from 7 credits to 6 credits. This allows students to have the college-level placement and the developmental course done during the first semester. The AFP program is also going to start integrating writing and reading classes, as well as open up an additional math lab next to the existing tutoring center on the first floor of Cook Hall, to help students specifically prepare for MA97.

The FastTrack program is another developmental education program offered by GRCC, where students take a quick three-week course to brush up on the needed skills. The program is offered each semester, but is mostly taken in the summer. Last summer, 79 percent (or 497 students) of those enrolled completed the program. Since 2012, over 2,300 have enrolled in FastTrack and Cowles estimated that the financial savings for students over the years has amounted to more than $1.2 million.

“We’re always trying to offer more sections of (FastTrack),” Cowles said. “Recruiting students is always a main priority for us.”

Cowles presented the latest data from the developmental education programs at the GRCC Board of Trustees meeting Monday night.

“We invest considerable time and money in preparing students to be successful,” Cowles said. “We are an open-access institution, so everyone is welcome and we want to make sure everyone has the systems they need in their classes. We want the board of trustees to have a more complete understanding of the developmental education program and our FastTrack activities.”

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