Before the Basic Skills Initiative seized the state’s attention, Santa Barbara City College had already made service to under-prepared students a top priority. The school’s Partnership for Success, now in its third year, transformed the approach to basic skills education. This broad effort expanded advising and tutoring, implemented student learning outcomes across the campus, and sparked collaboration between academic and student services.
Gateway to Success is a faculty-driven tutoring program developed for basic skills courses. Its impact on retention and success was so persuasive that the program soon expanded to higher-level classes. This fall Gateway will encompass nearly 350 sections in 42 departments. The college’s goal is to have one quarter of all credit-bearing classes offered as Gateway courses. This fall the program hired its first full-time coordinator.
Gateway’s strategy is to embed supplementary instruction into the classroom. Faculty choose tutors, often recent students of theirs, who will devote four hours a week to a designated class. Within that framework, the faculty-tutor-student relationship is highly individualized. Most tutors sit in on all lectures. Some instructors require students to visit the tutor before submitting a major assignment; others encourage it. The program’s effectiveness comes from the tutors’ knowledge of exactly what is expected in class and the instructors’ confidence that their students will get relevant, targeted assistance. The help extends beyond the classroom. Gateway tutors are required to take a one-unit course that includes guidance on making effective referrals for campus services.
Santa Barbara City College by the numbers
$2,014: Average annual cost for fees, books and supplies (CA residents)
More than 90 associate degree programs
More than 50 certificate programs
Source: City College website
A measure of Santa Barbara’s commitment to increasing the success of its students is the extent to which the college uses data to guide curricular changes and institutional planning. The goal is to create ‘a culture of evidence’ within which teaching strategies, curricula, services and student progress can be evaluated.
One example is the college’s electronic check-in system that tracks student use of labs. The ‘ZULU’ system lets instructors know how much time students spend in labs and what they do there, and helps students track their progress in completing course goals. On a broader level, the information is used by institutional researchers to measure the effectiveness of academic and student services.