Cayuga CC Receives $25k Grant to Develop Learning Communities to Increase Student Retention and Success

Submitted by Cayuga Community College

Last summer, U.S. President Barack Obama challenged the country to reclaim the top spot in producing college graduates in the world by 2020, and emphasized the role community colleges will play in achieving this goal. Currently, the United States ranks 12th in the world at producing workers who hold at least an associate’s degree, with more than one-third of American college students failing to complete their degrees within six years, according to the president.

Cayuga Community College is taking action to do its part to support its students to successful completion of their degrees, with help from a $25,000 Gateway to College National Network Innovation Collaborative grant. The funds enable the College to create and pilot learning communities that link developmental courses with a student success course and mentoring support system.

The College will use the money to help cover the costs of training and planning time for faculty and campus leaders to create developmental learning communities. Learning communities create a cohort of students who are enrolled in the same course or courses and often focus on a common reading or the same major theme across a variety of academic disciplines.

“Learning communities are valuable to all students, but appear to provide a particular benefit to students who need developmental coursework,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Development Anne Herron, Ph.D. “We’re very excited about this opportunity to support our incoming students with this highly collaborative and effective program that serves to encourage their engagement and persistence in college.”

Innovation Collaborative, a new Gateway to College National Network initiative, brings together representatives from select American colleges to create and scale learning communities and engaging pedagogy within their developmental education departments. During start-up training, participants receive intensive instruction on integrative curriculum design techniques, active-learning teaching methods, and solution-focused student support strategies. The program also provides each college with a coach to support teams in the implementation and refinement of their learning community designs.

Part of the grant requires Cayuga faculty and administrators to attend a Gateway to College National Network conference that will help Cayuga implement structures and practices to increase student persistence and completion. Among the topics to be discussed are building communities of practice, increasing face time between students and faculty, and implementing learner-centered strategies.

“The College’s ability to pilot developmental learning communities would allow the institution to research the feasibility of employing these nationally recognized, high-impact strategies to address overall issues of student engagement and persistence,” Herron said.