KOKOMO, Ind. — A program designed to help students successfully transition from high school to college wins $134,000 in state grant funding.
Indiana University Kokomo’s Bridge Program, a free two-week summer class, will expand from a pilot of 24 incoming freshmen in 2014 to potentially 120 in 2015. During the program, students learn how to navigate the campus, meet faculty, staff, and administrators, take a cultural field trip, and participate in lessons on goal setting, time management, class formats, international travel opportunities, and how to get involved in student activities.
The support continues for participating students throughout their freshman year, with additional advising, and programming in career preparation and financial planning, among other opportunities.
The grant funding, given by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, targets programs that support students who receive state financial aid through either the 21st Century Scholars or Frank O’Bannon Scholars program. Many are the first in their families to attend college.
“It’s not enough for these students to enroll in college. We need to prepare them to succeed, and to stay in school to complete a degree,” said Kathy Parkison, author of the grant. “Many of these students don’t know much about the difference between high school and college, and how to succeed as a college student. The bridge program helps prepare them to make that transition, and to persist to graduation.”
Parkison noted that 92 percent of the pilot program students returned for the spring semester, compared to 88 percent for all 21st Century Scholars. Twenty-one percent of the Bridge students earned dean’s list honors for the fall semester, compared to 13 percent of all 21st Century Scholars.
Kaitlyn Wolfe had only been on campus for a Visit in Person day before she joined the Bridge program. Familiarizing herself with the campus, and earning a free credit, motivated her to participate. The Greentown resident also appreciated learning about resources available to her — such as help setting up her laptop.
“It really helped me get excited about going to IU Kokomo, because I knew what I was doing,” she said. “I made friends I hadn’t known before, and learned about how to do well in college.”
Freshman Andrea Smith, from Swayzee, said the Bridge program gave her confidence that she was ready for college.
“After the class, college didn’t seem so scary,” she said. “I was starting with knowledge other freshmen didn’t have, and a had a whole new group of friends experiencing it with me.”
Indianapolis resident Stephen Calhoun appreciated the chance to earn a credit from the class, for free.
“It helped me get used to the school, and learn my way around before classes started,” he said.
The students in the pilot program formed a mentoring and service club, and instructors Karla Stouse, senior lecturer in English; and Minda Douglas, associate professor of fine arts; have continued to offer support throughout the year.
Reid Clingenpeel, one of the student leaders, would take the class again if he could.
“It helped open my eyes to opportunities on campus I did not know existed,” said Clingenpeel, from Flora. “I gained friendships that I highly value.”
Creating a support network is just as important as preparing for the academic rigors of college, according to Stouse.
“It gives them a chance to start their first semester with established connections to a new group of friends, and to a whole campus support system,” she said. “They met and had lunch with vice chancellors, advisors, faculty in a variety of disciplines, student leaders, and even the chancellor.”
IU Kokomo was one of 12 Indiana colleges receiving a portion of $1.8 million to fund development or expansion of programs to help low-income students graduate from college.
“Indiana has shifted its focus from making sure more students enroll in college to making sure students graduate with a degree that prepares them for a good job and life,” said Teresa Lubbers, commissioner for higher education. “We’re pleased to provide this financial assistance for colleges that are committed to supporting students who need it most, when they need it most: early in their college experience.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.