Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 11, 2013

Editorial: Solid start a big step to a degree

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — So 10 years after your high school graduation you’ve decided to go to college, get some additional training and maybe an associate’s degree, all to get a better job.

But first you take a placement test and find out that in order to get that associate’s degree you have to pass a college-level algebra class; before you can even take that class, however, you have to take a remedial “pre-algebra” class - the most fundamental remedial class Northwestern Michigan College offers.

So there you are, burning up Pell Grant money, time and effort on a remedial class that will only get you to the next step toward taking an actual college-level algebra class.

And what you don’t know is that just 4 percent of students who start at the pre-algebra remedial level eventually pass college-level algebra. Long odds, indeed.

Statistics show that where a student starts in his or her effort to get a degree matters - a lot. The further behind - at the pre-algebra level, for example - the less likely he or she is to graduate.

That’s all old news at NMC. For more than 40 years the college has been working to help individuals make it. Now, there’s a long list of programs aimed at helping students succeed. They include:

n A new 15-hour math “boot camp” that helps students place higher on math placement tests.

n A computer program called PLATO that helps prepare students for placement tests and supports course work.

n New math software that helps pace material to what students can handle.

n Developmental math classes as an option to standard courses and English composition. They offer two hours of supplemental instruction time each week.

n A program to screen students for visual and hearing problems.

n Keeping class sizes small for developmental math and English.

n Traverse City and Suttons Bay high schools teachers meeting with NMC instructors to ensure students are learning what they need to know for college.

n A Student Success Center, a Math Center, a Reading and Writing Center and a Tutoring Center to provide students with computer access and one-one support.

It’s making a difference. NMC says the student success rate from 2009 to 2012 - which the college defines as earning a 2.0 grade in the class or higher - increased from 60 percent to 64 percent in developmental math, and 71 percent to 72 percent in developmental English.

Those aren’t huge numbers, but they represent people who are succeeding. Stephen Siciliano, NMC’s vice president for educational services, said the college owes students a chance, however difficult.