Research shows college students across the country had trouble academically during the pandemic. At Georgia State, which has more students than any university or college in Georgia, the school saw an 8% increase in the number of D and F grades and in the withdrawal rate among first-year students. Georgia Gwinnett College’s retention rate, the percentage of students who stayed in school, dropped from about 70% in the year before the pandemic to about 65% last year, according to state data.
Similar remediation programs are also happening at the grade-school level. In Gwinnett County, the state’s largest public school district, more students are participating this summer in its Community-Based Mentoring Program camp, which has taken on added importance to help especially vulnerable students readjust after the disruption of COVID-19. Atlanta Public Schools held a Summer Academic Recovery Academy for students to brush up on math and literacy skills.
The colleges and universities are offering more in-person instruction in smaller class sizes with tutors, which they believe will help student performance. The final grades aren’t in yet, but administrators think the students are doing better. At the very least, administrators and those involved in the programs believe students see school leaders are sincerely interested in their academic success.
“Maybe the most important thing is the messaging that we know that the college experience over the last year isn’t the one you imagined and isn’t the one we imagined providing,” said Georgia Gwinnett program organizer Rachel Bowser, associate provost for strategic initiatives and an English professor. “We want you to come back and try again in an environment where everybody in the room knows that it’s important to have a second chance at something.”
The bad grades or withdrawals could threaten a student’s eligibility for scholarships and other forms of financial aid. The grade received this summer will generally replace the prior grade on each school’s grade-point average system, but the old grade will still be listed on the student’s transcript.
Officials from both schools said they’re interested in continuing the programs, particularly for first-year students.
“We all know that lots of people struggle in that first year. We want people to recover from that struggle and this might be a good way to not only help them with the class but help them really to see their success a little differently and motivate them going forward,” said Allison Calhoun-Brown, Georgia State’s vice president for student engagement and programs.
Georgia State used federal funds to cover some of the instructional costs. Students received scholarships funded through the university, Calhoun-Brown said. Georgia Gwinnett officials worked with their financial aid office to find money to help pay for the courses. At both schools, the classes were in core courses such as English, math and history. Some courses were in-person, others online and a few were taught with a mix of in-person and online instruction.
John said she had the option of taking her class online, but she wanted to do it in-person. Her class was twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday mornings. John, who described herself as introverted in larger classroom settings, said she was more vocal in the smaller class.
John is waiting on her final grade. She believes she’s close to getting a 90 in the class.
“I’m definitely a big fan of it,” she said of the summer classes. “It reduces the amount of people who are being left behind.”