April 30, 2013

Grant funded “Close the Gap” program will help students move on to degree level courses

NJC advisory board members Rich O’Connell and John Chapdelaine look over the Close the Gap brochures that were handed out at their April meeting

NJC advisory board members Rich O’Connell and John Chapdelaine look over the Close the Gap brochures that were handed out at their April meeting during a question and answer session about the program. Close the Gap offers an exceptional opportunity for area students to get some college courses totally free this summer. (Courtesy Photo)

In Colorado, as is the case across much of the nation, studies show that 40 percent of the 2011 high school graduates required some level of remedial coursework to bring them up to the skill level required for college degree level studies in reading, math and English. Colorado, like many other states, has adopted testing standards through the ACT Test or the Accuplacer Test to determine what level students are at in these three key areas. Failure to score at a certain level mandates that the students take special preparatory classes to help prepare them for higher college level courses. 

These classes are not only expensive, but they also consume financial aid dollars that would otherwise be spent actually doing classwork related to a major.  To help some students close this gap, Northeastern is offering a special summer bridge program. Funded by a grant from the Colorado Community College System, the bridge program is completely free for those students who take advantage of it. The tuition, fees and books are entirely paid for through the grant. For qualifying commuting students from outlying areas beyond Sterling, housing may also be available free. Ask for details.

Students who are incoming juniors or seniors in high school, who have just graduated from high school and are college-bound in the fall, or current students at NJC who need the offered classes may enroll in the Close the Gap program which runs concurrent to the college’s summer semester. Classes will be held June 3 through July 18th.  Some classes end as early as July 3rd.  All junior and seniors at Sterling High School and surrounding high schools will have had the chance to take the ACT or Accuplacer test already and should know their scores in these areas of math, reading and English.

In preparatory classes, there are currently three levels, explains Vice President of Academics Stanton Gartin. “We have 30 level classes, 60 level classes and 90 level classes,” he notes. “This summer bridge program is for the students who have tested into the 90 level. These are the students who need just a little retooling to be able to move on into the 100 level college classes.”  Gartin goes on to say that students testing into the 30 and 60 levels need more extensive remediation and they will find this in the fall during the regular semester. He also notes that the community college system is reclassifying all developmental courses with full implementation set for the Fall 2014 semester. Classes listed as 30 and 60 levels now may be combined with a 45 level listing.

During the summer bridge program, students may take up to two 90 level classes and earn up to 9 college credits. “That can add up to as much as $1,400 in tuition, fees and books,” Gartin said, noting that it even is more valuable if the student takes advantage of the free housing that is also available. The classes to be offered in this specific bridge program include Math 96-Combined Into-Intermediate Algebra; Reading 90-College Preparatory Reading; and English 90-Basic Composition. In addition, an Academic Achievement Advancement class, AAA101, is also offered as part of the bridge program. It is a mandatory class on many campuses for students requiring remedial courses. It will be required as part of this summer bridge program as a student’s schedule will allow. If a student is planning to attend NJC in the fall, and their schedule will not allow them to take the AAA101 class this summer, they may take it in the fall and the summer bridge program will still cover the cost of the class as if they had taken it during the summer. 

Most of the Close the Gap summer bridge program classes will all be held in the mornings Monday through Thursday and will be held in air conditioned classrooms. The Math 96 class is also held on Fridays.

This summer bridge program is especially valuable to students who will be juniors and seniors in high school. Students at area high schools who have college level skills may enroll in college classes their last two years of high school through the concurrent enrollment program available to them. “It is not uncommon for concurrent enrollment students to complete 20 to 30 college credits before they even graduate from high school,” notes Gartin. “Students who are just below that threshold, based on scores, may take these summer bridge classes and be ready for concurrent enrollment college classes by this fall.” Mandated by legislation, it is the responsibility of the high school to pay for these concurrent enrollment classes provided the student performs at a certain level academically.

“Our toughest goal here is to convince students to take advantage of this great offer,” notes Misti Lauer, Director of Academic Support Services at NJC, who is helping run this summer program. “That’s the last thing many students want to do is go right back to class. We’re hoping parents will read about this program and connect with their students and their test scores and if they need 90 level classes, we hope they will persuade their child to take advantage of this opportunity.”   Lauer makes a special point to say that a student doesn’t have to be coming to NJC to college in the fall. “This program is available to these students who need it regardless where they plan to go to college.”  And she notes, it is also available to out-of-state students who meet the earlier mentioned requirements. To get in the program students will have to have either ACT or Accuplacer test scores available and they will need to complete an NJC application for admission online if they have not ever done this. The Accuplacer test may be taken at NJC for a small fee if a student missed taking it at the high school when it was offered there.

An information session will be held on this summer bridge program on Tuesday, May 7th at 7 p.m. in the AV Room inside Knowles Hall, first floor in the library complex.  All interested students and parents are encouraged to attend. In the meantime, questions may be answered by calling Lauer at (970) 521-6619.