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Project Title:First-Year Learning Communities and Mentoring Institution Name:California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Innovation Category:Student Success Project Director:Lynn Mahoney, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate StudiesContact Information:(562) 985-7535, lmahoney@csulb.eduWebsite:
Project Description:CSULB employs a variety of programs to support first-year students. The Beach Learning Community is a required program for students with the lowest placement scores in math and writing. Students take a common set of courses and receive extra academic support and advising. Students with slightly higher placement scores are required to participate in our Partners for Success program and receive mentoring by faculty. The Learning Alliance provides linked courses and a first-year seminar for incoming liberal arts freshmen. Our Residential Learning College houses two first-year residential learning communities. Particular cohorts of students are required to participate in these programs. 
  • Build a sense of community among first-year students
  • Provide opportunities for first-year students to interact with faculty in small-class settings
  • Provide academic support (tutoring and supplemental instruction) to our most at-risk students.
  • Provide proactive advising to first-year students 

For Beach Learning Community we have measured:

  • A 20% increase in the proportion of at-risk students who complete their developmental coursework.
  • A 6% increase in the number of at-risk students who persist into the sophomore year.

For Learning Alliance, we have measured graduation rates in the 90%+ range.

Eventually we hope to measure increased graduation rates for at-risk students. 

Challenges/Problems Encountered:The primary challenge has been allocating funds for projects like these during unstable financial times. Over the span of a decade, CSULB built a culture of student success that ultimately demonstrated the effectiveness of programs like these and created an environment that allowed the administration to fund these projects despite shrinking resources. Data collection and program review were critical to creating this culture. 
Evaluation Approach:A review of graduation data demonstrated that students with low placement scores had significantly lower persistence and graduation rates. The data were used to identify the cohorts with the lowest rates. The Office of Institutional Research, Enrollment Services, and the Office of Undergraduate Studies track the progress of at-risk students. The university quantifiable outcomes are tracked by the Vice-Provost’s office. Programs such as the Learning Alliance and Beach Learning Community also undergo program reviews, as do all academic affairs programs. 
Potential for Replication:These programs are easily replicable. They depend upon significant collaboration between Enrollment Services, Student Affairs, and Academic Affairs, as well as between offices and departments within these units. They also require “ownership” at the senior levels of university administration to counteract the tendency at large universities for programs to become focused on one college or one unit. Ownership at the senior level also ensures that the message about student success is both funded and affirmed. 
CEO-to-CEO Contact:F. King Alexander , Presidentfkalexander@csulb.edu
(562) 985-4121
Date Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011