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BENTONVILLE -- Students deemed underprepared will be required to take a certain set of remedial courses during their first semester at NorthWest Arkansas Community College starting this fall.

The policy will apply to those students who failed to meet certain scores on their ACT tests in math, writing and reading. Their registration will be limited to remedial courses, also referred to as developmental courses, in those three areas along with a first-year student success course, said Steven Gates, senior vice president for learning and provost.

At A Glance

School Calendar

NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s fall semester begins Aug. 25. There will be a fall break for faculty and students on Oct. 20 and 21. The last day of classes is Dec. 12 with final exams finishing Dec. 20.

Source: NorthWest Arkansas Community College

Between 200 and 250 students per semester will fall into that category based on the college's enrollment history, according to Gates.

The policy is a part of the college's strategy to increase its student retention rate. Data show the more developmental courses a student must take upon entering college, the more at risk they are for failing to graduate, Gates said.

"What this (policy) does is unite the core faculty teaching these developmental courses to share a common vision of what they want to have happen in conjunction with that first-year success course, and look at this holistically to help a student succeed," Gates said.

Megan Bolinder, an English professor and the college's coordinator of academic skills and writing, is leading the charge in creating a support network for students in the developmental classes.

Bolinder said she's worked at other institutions that used some version of a structured, first-year placement schedule. She added individuals at NorthWest Arkansas Community College have been making efforts on this front for years.

"There just hasn't been the environment for it to coalesce like it has now," she said. "I'm thrilled there's a broader discussion on campus taking place for creating a hub of support for those students."

The developmental reading course usually had 10 sections in a semester, but it has 12 for the upcoming fall semester, Bolinder said. Yet another section may be added.

The college had a visit from Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., in January.

"He was an incredible speaker and proponent of this kind of investment in first-year success," Bolinder said. "We hear a lot about persistence and completion. His whole point is persistence and completion come from investment in getting students college-ready and investing in the first semester."

The college's student success course teaches things such as time management, how to build an academic plan, and where to go for academic help.

"We've had that for about three or four years," Gates said. "Now we're putting a little more emphasis on it and requiring certain students to take it."

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has a lower percentage of students in need of remedial work than the college does, according to Karen Hodges, director of the university Office of Academic Success. Freshman classes typically are about 4,500 students. Out of those, about 100 usually need remediation in English and reading and about 300 need it in math, Hodges said.

The university is "batch enrolling" freshmen into nine hours of classes for their first semester. That means freshmen are automatically enrolled in classes they will need to complete the major in which they've indicated an interest. It's a way to ease stress on advisers and students, Hodges said.

"If they had required remediation, we put them into the related remedial classes as part of the nine hours," Hodges said. "This really helped get the students the help they need the first semester they are on campus."

Hodges said it seems more students are enrolled now in remedial classes than have been in the past.

NW News on 08/04/2014

Print Headline: College Emphasizing First-Year Success

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