Chapter 7: Pathways for Success: From Pre-College to Campus Life
Posted on March 18, 2017Download as a PDF
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Imagine you are a business owner. You own a general store in a small town, and for many years you have depended upon a local manufacturing company to subsidize your business. But now they are downsizing, and their standing order has been reduced from 60% of your revenue to 20% and falling. They are laying off employees who, in turn, are moving away for new jobs. And, of course, internet providers are significantly undercutting your business as you are unable to compete with their pricing structure. What can you do?
For starters, you will need to find new customers, improve your customer experience so they become repeat customers, and try to contain your pricing in order to compete. If you fail, you will be out of business.
Now imagine you are running a university in an area with increased competition, declining enrollments, and reduced federal and state support. You have to deal with increasing pressure to contain costs, as the price of higher education, student debt, and return on investment are constantly questioned in the media. You, like the business owner, need to carefully examine your business model to survive.
This is the challenge those of us in higher education currently face, but with one additional pressure: our "customers" are unique. We educate students. We believe in the liberal arts, and we know that our role is not only to provide knowledge and skills, but to develop civically engaged, productive citizens who will contribute to the state and to the nation.
It's no secret – the projected demographics in Massachusetts and the Northeast for the next 10 years show a decline in the number of high school seniors going to college. Couple this with the fact that it is the most competitive higher education marketplace in the country and it is clear that finding new ways to recruit and retain students must be a top priority for many institutions.
A projected 72% of all jobs in Massachusetts will require a college education by 2020. We must find and recruit new students by focusing on making higher education attainable for all.
Currently in Massachusetts, about 75% of high school graduates go to college. This represents the highest rate in the country, but it is still not enough to keep pace with the state's knowledge economy. A projected 72% of all jobs in Massachusetts will require a college education by 2020. The pressure is on all of us to increase the number of college graduates in the state. Much like the business owner in the example above, we need a two-pronged approach. First, we must find and recruit new students by focusing on making higher education attainable for all and targeting those 25% of students in Massachusetts who typically do not go to college. Second, once they get to college, we must make sure these students have the academic and social support needed to succeed and are satisfied with their experience so they will return the following year.
At Framingham State University, we have started a few programs to reach out to students and families traditionally underserved by higher education. A key to these initiatives is open collaboration with other educational institutions in the region. These initiatives include:
The MetroWest College Planning Center (CPC) is a regional college access initiative founded in December 2014 by Framingham State University and MassBay Community College. The mission of the CPC is to provide the necessary outreach, training, mentoring, and advising to youth and nontraditional adult learners in the region and guide them on their desired educational pathway to higher education and a career. The CPC provides opportunities to develop specific skills and training that lead to certificates, associate's degrees, or completion of a four-year degree. The Center welcomes and serves all members of the community and supports specific outreach to underrepresented, low-income, first-generation, and minority students and their families.
The mission of the CPC is to provide the necessary outreach, training, mentoring, and advising to youth and nontraditional adult learners in the region and guide them on their desired educational pathway to higher education and a career.
100 Males to College is a college access and readiness program that aims to increase college access, enrollment, retention, and success for low-income males and males of color. There is particular focus on young, low-income Latino and African American male students at local schools. The program provides a comprehensive support structure to a cohort of 100 young male students to help them successfully graduate from high school, gain entry to college, and earn a post-secondary degree. This is another effort run in partnership with MassBay Community College.
Collaborative Project in Mathematics is an example of a successful curricular collaboration in mathematics between Framingham State University and four public high schools. By sharing standards and expectations across education levels, we were able to dramatically reduce remediation in math for entering college freshmen from a baseline of 20.5% (FY2012) to 9% (FY2013) and 10% (FY2014). College math is one of the crucial gateway subjects and has a direct correlation with student retention and success.
We have also focused our efforts on retention through a few initiatives, including:
Reimagining the First Year. We have joined 33 other institutions in this comprehensive project under the guidance of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). This effort is led on our campus by the provost and the vice president for enrollment and student development. The project focuses on everything that affects students during their transition to college life. It is a data-driven process structured around inter-departmental teams with specific goals and deadlines. The overarching theme is based on the motto "FS U-belong" to emphasize inclusiveness and a sense of community. We are collecting data on issues ranging from gateway course success to student satisfaction with university services. We have also focused on the meaning of "being student friendly." Clearly, smiling and providing good service is basic in this regard, but it is certainly not enough. To address the issue in a comprehensive manner, the provost has initiated a review of the "Three P's": policies, procedures, and practices. The goal is to look at every policy in the books and examine how policies are implemented and the best ways to maintain, change, optimize, or eliminate policies and align our practices with the best models for student success.
The project focuses on everything that affects students during their transition to college life. It is a data-driven process structured around inter-departmental teams with specific goals and deadlines.
Brother to Brother (B2B) and M.I.S.S. are student organizations established to support and inspire the educational, professional, and social success of male and female students of color, respectively. The initiatives seek to improve retention, persistence, and graduation rates of students of color by engaging them in educational activities, developmental opportunities, and co-curricular experiences. The students advocate for an inclusive educational experience and quality of life at Framingham State University.
Hope in Action. The past few months have been very difficult for our country, as we have gone through a divisive and grueling presidential campaign. The results have left students on many college campuses upset, angry, and even fearful. We are all passionate about our political opinions and beliefs, particularly when the contrast between two visions for America is so stark. Rather than let our differences divide us, at Framingham State University we have sought to harness the passion and energy that came out of the election in a way that resolves divisions and brings solidarity to our community. We are calling the effort Hope in Action, and it began with a community discussion immediately following the election that emphasized our need to support one another, regardless of our background, beliefs, or political leanings. From there, we began recruiting students, faculty, and staff to take part in the effort and have organized into teams focused on different themes. They include topics such as mental health; racial, religious and political profiling; and strategies for conducting conversations with family members you disagree with politically. Thus far, the effort has been embraced by members of our community, and we have seen students take the lead on planning several events.
We can no longer be content with enrolling and graduating traditional college students. The health of our institutions and the growth of our local and national economy depend on our ability to attract, retain, and graduate a greater number of low-income, non-traditional, and minority students. By increasing enrollment in these areas, we can offset decreases in enrollment of traditional college students, while also helping these historically underserved populations lead happy and productive lives. Of course, we also have to redouble our efforts to enroll, retain, and graduate all students. To that end, we have done some organizational restructuring. The main change has been to move our Center for Academic Success and Advising (CASA) from Student Affairs to Academic Affairs. Having a direct line to the provost and the deans means more engagement with faculty, especially for the gateway courses where so many students stumble. We are carefully tracking the success rate and grade improvement in those courses.
The health of our institutions and the growth of our local and national economy depend on our ability to attract, retain, and graduate a greater number of low-income, non-traditional, and minority students.
To conclude, many times in higher education we feel a bit like Don Quixote charging against windmills. And sometimes, like the old would-be knight, we may stumble in our efforts. But we keep our mission as our guide. Framingham State University has the distinction of being the first public Normal School in the country. Founded in 1839 by Horace Mann, the reasons for its creation stand today. In the very first issue of "The Common School Journal," which he also founded and edited, Mann set his vision for education in the Commonwealth. The topics he addressed then are still relevant. Mann wanted education to be accessible, to serve as a way to develop leadership, and to bring up citizens who are engaged in the political process. Our task is to ensure we accomplish those lofty goals.