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Thursday, February 28, 2013

First Year Experience Course Keeps Students On Track

Waterbury, Conn. - Students who enroll in and successfully complete their First Year Experience (FYE) course are more likely to return to college the next semester, according to a study done by NVCC’s Office of Institutional Research (OIR).

After piloting nine FYE cohorts in 2010-11, the College officially made the course mandatory for all first-time full-time students in academic year 2011-12. The study prepared by OIR compares retention, GPA and credit accumulation for first-time full-time students from the Fall 2011 cohort who successfully completed the FYE course in their first semester with prior first-time full-time fall cohorts from 2007-10.

“First Year Experience courses have been used by community colleges, as well as four-year institutions, for many years in an effort to ease freshmen into the college experience and to improve student retention,” said Sandra Palmer, Ph.D., dean of Academic Affairs in the course proposal. “A review of the literature on freshman retention reveals that FYE is one of a handful of approaches that yields consistently positive results on freshmen retention and success.”

Consistent findings have manifested at NVCC, with retention improving from 60% to 75% for fall 2011 students who successfully completed FYE in their first semester. This represents a 25% improvement in retention over prior semesters 2007-11.

“I could not be more pleased by the positive implications of these findings” said President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. “Over the last several years, we have been challenged as an institution to do more with less resources. This is one of the many creative ways that we have reorganized our work in order to better support our students.”

Through the FYE program, every new student has the opportunity to form a more casual, mentor-style relationship with full-time faculty from their first days on campus.

The course meets once a week and focuses on developing creative and critical thinking skills and information literacy skills, improving written and oral communication skills, setting personal and academic goals, developing structured and consistent study habits, practicing effective time management and integrating students into the NVCC community. In addition, FYE grads develop a comprehensive academic and career development plan to guide their path to graduation.

In addition to improved retention, data also shows that FYE students who were retained were more likely to earn a GPA of 2.0 or better, which is required in order to remain financial aid eligible. Of completing FYE students, 86% earned at least a 2.0, which represents “a landmark increase of 9% from the prior cohort,” according to Lauren Haddad Friedman, director of Institutional Research.

The greatest and perhaps most exciting change, however, was seen in credit accumulation said Friedman. Whereas in 2007-2010, 60% of retained first-time full-time students, on average,  accumulated 20 or more credits in their first year, successful FYE students with 20 or more credits totaled 75% of all students retained in 2011 – an increase of 25% over the prior year.

“I think the results are clear,” said Dean Palmer. “FYE courses positively impact the success of our students and the more data we accumulate in upcoming years, the better we can identify appropriate support areas for FYE.”

For more information, see the full report “Impacts of the First Year Experience Course: Cohort Comparisons.” (January 2013)

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