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Waubonsee Voices: New academic year brings new pathways for student success

With the academic year looming around the corner, classes all across the U.S. will be in session sooner than we know. Naturally, the back-to-school season can trigger a mix of emotions – excitement and nervousness for children, young adults, and parents as well as for numerous adults returning to the classroom after some time away.

This fall, many students will enter a physical classroom or a hybrid format for the first time in quite some time. And, it is common for students to wonder, “Will I succeed?” Those who serve in higher education are also thinking about student success. Furthermore, administrators tasked with evaluating overall institutional effectiveness ponder, “How will we measure student success?”

At Waubonsee Community College, there is excitement in the air to adapt new pathways for student success and equity. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated common barriers that have historically blocked success for many at-risk students. And what many institutions have learned in navigating the pandemic is new methods to serve students; all students. During the pandemic, successful institutions discovered new and deeper ways to collaborate with each other and intervene in students’ experiences.

Interestingly, it is precisely this strategy that The Chronicle of Higher Education prescribes to institutions this fall to create conditions of student success. The article, “Student Success This Fall Will Depend on Faculty-Staff Cooperation” by Lee Skallerup Bessette and Joseph P. Fisher, outlines seven ways to foster greater collaboration between campus academic and student-support divisions.

The result of these types of collaborations and interventions at Waubonsee have been a caring and purposeful, strategic, and college-wide effort that puts all students in the driver’s seat of success, regardless of need. These pathways are simple to navigate and open doors to resources that current and returning students require to be successful:

• Early intervention.

• Access to affordable textbooks.

• Technology.

• Online class accountability.

• On-demand mentoring.

• Additional financial resources to pay for college.

Before fall 2021 classes begin, new Waubonsee students receive multiple touchpoints and get the chance to have their questions answered via the New Student Orientation, now available online and in person. Additionally, new students benefit from being assigned to an advisor who helps them define their goals and act as a single source of early intervention and guidance during their time at Waubonsee.

Current students with busy schedules can benefit from a 24-hour tutoring service. Waubonsee tutors can help with every subject and are only a chat away during flexible evening/weekend hours. Additionally, many online courses provide students with a course navigator who helps them identify ways to become more engaged during their online sessions. Students can borrow a laptop, hotspot, webcam or other equipment to complete their coursework by requesting technology assistance using Waubonsee’s ServiceDesk Portal.

We have aligned our financial aid and tuition policy so that financial assistance packages are easy to navigate and attainable, and we have leveraged federal funding to create emergency grant funds to meet students’ financial needs in “real” time. All students demonstrating financial need at Waubonsee are eligible to receive financial support. Students can leverage the Reach Higher Scholarship to overcome significant financial barriers, including, but not limited to fall 2021 tuition, fees, course materials, technology, food, housing, health care costs and child care.

For specific questions about the Reach Higher Scholarship, email ReachHigher@waubonsee.edu. In addition to our usual low tuition, interest-free payment plans and available financial aid, we offer an Assistance Window for students who need more time to make the first payment.

We want higher education to be attainable for everyone in our community and we know that happens when we continually cultivate an environment that fosters student success and equity.

• Christine J. Sobek is president of Waubonsee Community College.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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