Freshman Academy discontinued due to low enrollment

MICHEAL DORAME

The short-lived Freshman Academy program at Saddleback College will not be continuing this semester due to low entry numbers, but may be revived sometime in the future.

“I always saw the program as an opportunity for us to work very closely with a small group of at-risk students, to learn from them, and I think we did that very successfully,” said Kevin O’Connor, dean of liberal studies.

“We learned a great deal about these students, their needs, and what did and didn’t seem to work for them during the two years of the program,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor used to oversee the program, which was piloted by the Basic Skills Initiative.

Recently, Patricia Flannigan, dean of online education and learning resources, was positioned as the new BSI coordinator.

A decision to cancel the academy was made as a “group effort” according to Flannigan.

“I was in favor of the decision because only two students were in the class,” Flannigan said.

“I see my responsibility as creating programs that are funded through BSI that reach as many students as possible,” Flannigan said.

The Freshman Academy was a beneficial project for students, but it only reached approximately 25 students at Saddleback, Flannigan said.

Holding a document showing basic skills allocations by college for 2011-2012, she pointed out Saddleback and Irvine Valley College.

“We got $90,000 compared to $126,500 basically for IVC,” Flannigan said. “I’m very concerned.”

BSI funding started in 2006 by the state of California with the goal of helping colleges support students in need of basic skills education.

According to the State of California, “Basic skills are those foundation skills in reading, writing, mathematics and English as a Second Language (ESL), as well as learning and study skills that are necessary for students to succeed in college-level work.”

Flannigan referenced another document titled “Student success in core basic skills courses,” showing a 45 percent success rate in MATH 251 for fall 2010. She said it shows the campus has BSI students who need a lot of support.

Don Busche, acting vice president for instruction, was also involved in the decision to close the academy.

“When we looked at the enrollment, we just didn’t have an enrollment that was large enough to warrant continuing it,” Busche said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s gone forever.”

As for the matter of BSI funding from the state, he explained that certain low-level courses are considered as basic skills, and colleges with less enrolment in those classes receive less funding.

“It’s the enrollment, but it’s enrollment within certain levels of courses,” Busche said.

In regards to allocations being considered for BSI money, he spoke of plans for a tutoring center, which would focus on basic skills in order to help at-risk students rise to college success.

“One of our goals is to be able to provide tutorial help for those students who are in the basic skills courses, so that they can progress up into the college level courses more rapidly,” Busche said. “What we want to try and do, is maximize the impact that we have on students.”

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