Completing a gateway course, the first level course in a subject area, is a strong indicator of future academic success. However, community college students are struggling to complete these courses, with only 16% of students nationally completing both English and math gateway courses in their first year. This lack of success has a severe impact on retention rates and graduation rates. Students who do not complete their gateway courses have a significantly lower chance of progressing to their second year and graduating in three years.
The success rates depend on the institution’s approach to student success. Kentucky has fully adopted a “student ready” philosophy, where students receive structured academic support through corequisite education. Additionally, success rates in gateway courses are an equity issue, with large performance gaps based on race, income, and age. Support for non-academic needs and a sense of belonging on campus are needed to close these disparities.
Faculty, particularly professors, also play a significant role in influencing success in gateway courses. They must provide a curriculum that includes historical materials paired with culturally relevant examples with a social justice focus, as well as structured time for students to connect with them, review their work, and ask questions. This time is essential for building student confidence and their capacity for success.
Source: Kentucky Student Success Collaborative
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