Front Range Community College has an award winning program housed on campus that you may not have heard of, the Gateway to College program. At the end of June, PJ Travin, the Assistant Director of the Gateway to College Program, and Andy Dorsey, the President of FRCC, traveled to Minneapolis, MN to accept the award. Travin recently shared what the Gateway to College program is and why FRCC won the award.
“The award is specifically for our graduation rate from the previous year (2014). So that implies it (the graduation rate) was for the prior two years since typically our students are in the program for two years. Almost 300 graduates have gone through the program in 8 years but we had almost 50 graduates that year.”
This was the first year that the award was handed out and it is quite an honor for FRCC to have received it given the demographic of students the program supports and because of the award’s alignment with values of FRCC. As Travin states, “Front Range’s mission is Diversity and Inclusion and helping community and this is the premise of the Gateway to College program.”
According to their website, the aim of the Gateway to College Network is to “support communities in building sustainable pathways for disconnected youth (former high school dropouts) to a high school diploma and a meaningful college credential.” Travin provides more detail;
The “(Gateway to College) Pilot program ran out of Portland Community College 12-13 years ago that Bill and Melinda Gates thought was cool and they threw in a bunch of funding. They don’t still fund it, however they originally funded it and created a national network for it.” There are around 41 different programs in 21 states and the program here started in 2008. The program here, and in the other 40 programs included in the Network, provides an alternative schooling environment for students who are struggling in a traditional, high school classroom.
“What we do is take students who are at risk of dropping out of high school or have dropped out of high school and they come to us and they have to go through a somewhat rigorous process to be accepted into the program.” Travin expands on the enrollment process;
“The process involves attending an information session where I talk about the program for an hour and a half, they have to prove they can read at an 8th grade level and take the accuplacer where they have to test into at least MAT-050 and CCR-092. After, we interview each student where we do a one-on-one interview and then as a staff decide if each student is a good fit for the program. The district also needs to approve the student so they essentially get approved twice.”
The at risk students that he refers to include students who are enrolled in high school but don’t have the credits they should for their grade level, students who are struggling with substance abuse issues, a parent (or parent to be) that had to take time off to raise their child or simply a student whose learning style isn’t well suited for a traditional high school classroom.
Students get referred to the program by their school district and FRCC works with five different districts in the surrounding community; Adams County, Brighton, Mapleton, Jefferson County and Westminster Public Schools.
“These districts can refer students to us, which can be (referred by) a high school counselor to the principal to an administrator and even from other students. So students get to us through all different ways.”
The program is essentially a scholarship for the students as the Gateway to College program pays for their tuition. The school district that the student is coming from ultimately pays FRCC for the student’s tuition.
Students in the Gateway program are enrolled in more than just CORE curriculum classes. As a part of their first semester at FRCC, Gateway students are required to take a Foundations Semester, as Travin refers to it, which is a college preparedness and success course load. Students take MAT-050, CCR-092 and AAA-090 (an academic skills and college readiness class). The course is taught by the staff of FRCC’s Gateway to College Program. These Master’s level instructors also serve as the student’s counselor, tutor and mentor.
The class really focuses on the barriers to the student’s success in school, which may include outside of school social struggles, family issues or money/poverty problems, to name only a few. As well as addressing these barriers, the faculty also help students learn how to take notes, how to prepare for a test, how to budget time and other related skills that are necessary to thrive in a college environment. This extra support is especially important due to the demographics that the program serves, which can be seen in these charts that Travin provided. The first-generation college student statistics really highlight this importance.
One of the truly beneficial features of the program is the fact that, after the initial semester, the students are able to earn both high school as well as college credit and some students graduate high school, at 18, having also completed many requirements for an Associate’s degree.
“If they do well in that first semester, do well in their classes, then they move on and become a continuing student. What that means is that they are taking college classes (with the larger FRCC population) and they are dually enrolled, meaning they are getting college and high school credit.”
In addition to needing to meet the enrollment requirements for traditional FRCC students, Gateway to College students must attend at least 85% of their classes, be enrolled in the college success course (what Travin refers to as homeroom) each semester, achieve C’s or better in all their classes and show improvement in their soft skills, which includes good communication, utilization of resources, time management and overall quality of work and effort put into their schooling.
FRCC’s Gateway Program has seats for 105 students, which makes it one of the larger programs of its kind in the nation. The program usually runs at capacity as well and in most semesters there is more demand than the school can supply. The acknowledgment from the Gateway to College Network reflects just how successful FRCC’s program really is because semester-by-semester retention, as well as graduation rates, are the two most important ways the program can measure its success.
“This award is won on how many students we graduated and the percentage of students who were in the program who should graduate and who then did graduate at the time they should. So of the 41 programs in the country, we are one of the top five.”
Travin provided some of the most recent statistics about enrollment and the success of the program. “During 2014 – 2015 (the award year), we served a total of 164 students and had 60 graduates
- Our students pass their classes with C’s or better at a 71% rate
- Our average graduate has earned 27 college credits
- We have a 74% Fall-to-Fall retention rate
- 52% of our students stay at FRCC and continue into the college and another 10% transfer to another 2 or 4-year institution, so 62% of our graduates go on with their college (of the ones we can track).”
We are very fortunate as students to be a part of a campus and community that offers such wonderful programs which are designed to set students up for success during their college careers as well as into the future. As students, we are surrounded in forward thinking, service oriented programs. From Gateway to College to the TriO program to all of the academic advisors and tutoring services available, there is support and help available for all types of students and all manner of needs.
For more information on FRCC’s Gateway to College Program, check out their Facebook page, FRCC Gateway to College, and the Gateway to College Networks site Gateway to College Network. If you know a student who could benefit from this program or just want more information on the services offered, contact PJ Travin at PJ.Travin@frontrange.edu.
Written by Alex Liethen
Photo by Alex Liethen