UC Riverside Cited for Success with Pell Grant Students

Learning communities for freshmen are part of the not-so-secret recipe for success

Mojan Deriss spent her first year in a learning community. Carrie Rosema

RIVERSIDE, Calif  (www.ucr.edu) – A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy includes UC Riverside among universities doing the most  to accept and graduate low-income college students.

The report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is called “Serving Their Share: Some Colleges Could Be Doing a Much Better Job Enrolling and Graduating Low-Income Students.” It was issued Oct. 29.

Those schools identified as “access improvers” include the UC campuses in Riverside, Irvine, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, as well as Indiana Wesleyan; Stetson University in Florida; Grand Valley State in Michigan; the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; Florida State and the University of Florida.

“Almost all of the institutions on our Access Improvers list offer summer bridge academic programs, use early warning systems to identify and intervene with struggling students, provide academic maps to help students take the right courses and hit key milestones on time, and run learning communities geared toward helping students succeed,” according to the report, authored by Colleen Campbell and Mamie Voight.

Henry Pham of Temecula rides a bus to UCR. Last year he was in a freshman learning community. Carrie Rosema

Henry Pham of Temecula rides a bus to UCR. Last year he was in a freshman learning community.
Carrie Rosema

For UC Riverside, that shift happened about 10 years ago, after the student population became more diverse and almost doubled, from abut 9,000 students in the mid-1990s to about 17,000 students in the mid-2000s. UCR is now at nearly 22,000 students.

Nearly 2/3rds of incoming freshmen participate in specialized first year learning communities. Today it is clear that support programs are paying off. UCR has nearly equal graduation rates across all racial and ethnic groups — a rarity among colleges and  universities.

Steven Brint, UC Riverside’s vice provost for undergraduate education, called support programs the  “secret recipe.” for UCR. “Three critical pieces for us are creating block scheduling for small groups of students, providing intensive advising and requiring supplemental instruction classes taught by fellow students,” he said.

That success in graduating students creates such trust with the communities that the campus has been able to maintain diversity, while at the same time become more selective, Brint said.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to promoting access to and success in higher education for all students. Based in Washington, D.C., IHEP develops innovative policy- and practice-oriented research to guide policymakers and education leaders, who develop high-impact policies that will address the nation’s most pressing education challenges.

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