December, 2017

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Colleges are continually looking for new ways to increase the retention of their students — especially students who may be at a greater risk of dropping out. The College of St. Scholastica has created a new program to try to do just that: Academic Plus supports incoming freshman who have slightly lower GPA and ACT scores.

“We wanted to support these students in an intentional way that can help them adjust and be successful at St. Scholastica,” said Lindsey Lindstrom, academic advisor and transfer student specialist.

The Academic Plus Program is a combination of academic support services designed to give students strong academic habits early in their college career. The program, which is entirely elective, includes logged study time in designated locations, academic coaching from a student affairs professional and habit-building assignments from their coach. If the students complete the requirements and keep a certain GPA, they will receive an academic scholarship.

“St. Scholastica offers its students a lot of scholarships to help make college more affordable,” said Jessica Johnston, academic advisor and coordinator of the Center for Academic Success and veterans services. “This program allows students to show the college that they have that academic potential, bumping up their academic aid.”

That recognition of academic ability is awarded to the students the second semester of their first year to reward them for the work they have done, Johnston said. “The student continues to receive the scholarship and isn’t expected to continue the programming as long as they stay in good academic standing,” she said. “The scholarship shows the students that we are committed to them and are investing in helping them succeed.”

Although the program is relatively new, the outcomes of the first participants are encouraging. The retention rate of the students who completed the program in the fall of 2015 was 97 percent in the beginning of spring semester — nearly 10 percentage points higher than students who were eligible but did not participate in the program. At the end of the academic year the retention rate was 91 percent — nearly 20 percentage points higher than students who were eligible but did not participate.

“Now we’re in the phase of looking long-term, down the road is this program benefiting the students?” Johnston said. “The outcomes from the first two years are positive and now that we have students who are juniors we can see how they have benefited.”

By Tom Lancaster