Monday, August 24, 2015

The Promise of TN Promise

The latest numbers, as of August 24,  have 1486 Tennessee Promise students attending Vol State classes this fall. That pushes overall enrollment up more than five percent. The Promise students are also credited with increasing our Full Time Equivalency. It’s up nearly 15 percent over last year. The thought is that Promise students have to take at least 12 credit hours, so we have more students taking more classes.

So, now the big questions: How will they do academically? And perhaps most importantly- what will we do to help them succeed?

We have four new completion coaches on campus this semester. That means that each academic division will have a person to contact students who are in trouble (Health Sciences already has such a position). But that can only happen if faculty members use the ALERTS system as early as possible. The goal is to stage an academic intervention with students who are doing poorly, and to do that intervention as early in the semester as possible. The completion coaches, coordinated by the Office of Retention, will contact students in trouble and help those students get extra academic support. The college will also have a new software system, called Starfish, to help with ALERTS and intervention.

Tennessee Promise students may be a different type of community college student. They are already used to responding to deadlines and listening to instructions, just by the very nature of the Tennessee Promise program requirements.

“They have been pushed to complete things much earlier than we have seen before,” said Dr. Emily Short, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management. “They’ve been indoctrinated early.”

A Summer Bridge pilot program attempted to get Promise students up to speed in English and Math.

“The Bridge Program was successful. We had 96 percent of students who took Summer Bridge either increase their scores,” said Short. “49 students out of 81 in the pilot tested out of some or all of their Learning Support needs.”

The hope is to expand Bridge next year.

In the meantime, the focus is also on recruiting a new class of Tennessee Promise students. The application for high school seniors to enroll in Tennessee Promise is open now. The deadline is November 2. Vol State will be holding info sessions for the high school students in September and October. Click here for a list of the dates and other details for students. 

“We learned a lot this year,” Short said. “We have learned how to better prepare ourselves and how to better prepare campus for an influx of students like this.”

Vol State is also trying to retain the title of most college employees signed-up as TN Promise mentors. It is rewarding volunteer work. You have the opportunity to put students on the right path and get them thinking about college programs and requirements much earlier than the typical community college student.

“I have already signed up,” said Criminal Justice instructor James Brown. “I enjoy helping a new group of students. I like to think I made a difference for them.”

You can sign-up, as either a new or returning mentor, here.



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