Last week, Boston.com reported some sobering news. According to the recently released National Assessment Governing Board’s “Nation’s Report Card," only 37 percent of high school seniors are academically prepared for college-level math and reading coursework.
High school students in Massachusetts do slightly better. In 2013, 12th graders performed nine points higher than the national average on the math test and six points higher on the reading test. Yet, the problem still remains: too often, students enter college unprepared for the academic rigors of higher education. In fact, more than 50% of students entering two-year degree programs require remedial coursework before they can begin to tackle their degree.
More than 50% of students entering two-year degree programs require remedial coursework before they can begin to tackle their degree.
Many of these students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, financially and academically, and immediately fall behind before even getting started on their degree. As the burden becomes too great to overcome, these students begin to drop out before reaching graduation – 62% complete their remediation coursework and then only 22% earn their degree.
Yet, where a challenge exists, so too does opportunity. Through supportive efforts that enhance academic, social and personal growth, we help students overcome these challenges, obtain a degree, and secure a rewarding job. By doing this, they can uplift themselves and their families, and add to the economic vitality of the Commonwealth.
At BFIT, almost one-third of first-year students test into the Department of Academic Development (DAD). For those that begin in the fall semester, students take needed foundational classes such as Introduction to Professional Communication or Fundamental Mathematics. Then in the spring, they begin to take a full load of the technical courses for credit towards their major.
Before 2006, without scholarships for the summer semester, 80% of students needing remedial courses dropped out of BFIT after their first year. Students may have dropped out for a number of reasons, but the financial challenge of an extra semester of tuition and the psychological impact of starting behind could not be ignored. For many students, finding tuition for summer courses was virtually impossible as these classes did not qualify for state or federal support.
In 2006, BFIT began offering tuition support through the Third Semester program. Students received free summer courses between their first and second year. It provided continuity and put students back on track to graduate with their cohort. It also ensured they paid the same amount for their degree as intended. What we discovered was extremeley encouraging. Completion and college re-enrollment rate for Third Semester participants skyrocketed to over 97% the first year and we have maintained an 88% retention rate over the past 10 years.
Completion and college re-enrollment rate for Third Semester participants skyrocketed to over 97% the first year and maintained an 88% retention rate over the past 10 years.
Third Semester’s success demonstrates the need to create and expand strategic approaches to higher education. Only through innovative college-to-career pathways can we boost academic success and retention and ultimately address the “skills gap” that sees American companies struggling to fill essential technical jobs while leaving people without postsecondary education in a cycle of poverty and dependency.