SF State News {University Communications}

Image: Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus

Metro Academies helps to retain students at risk of dropping out of college

April 19 , 2011 -- Early results from an innovative, coordinated program at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco have shown promise in retaining students who are at-risk for dropping out of college.

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Metro Academies, a partnership between the Departments of Health Education at SF State and City College of San Francisco, is a two-year program that focuses on retaining and graduating underrepresented, low-income and first-generation college students. The program uses numerous high-impact practices supported by research to benefit student learning, including: learning communities, tutoring, extra academic counseling and electronic portfolios to exhibit students' new skills. Students receive one-on-one support from faculty and construct individual education plans with an academic counselor. 

The extra support has translated to significant increases in Metro student retention rates: 87 percent from freshman to sophomore year at SF State compared to 75 percent for the comparison group and 78 percent compared to a college-wide retention rate of 44 percent at City College of San Francisco. Metro Academies students also posted significantly higher grade point averages compared to a matched student comparison group.

"Metro provides students with an 'educational home' where they repeatedly learn and practice the foundation knowledge and skills needed to succeed in higher education," said Mary Beth Love, a co-Principal Investigator of the Metro Academies Initiative and Chair of the Health Education department at SF State. "Our students are determined to help change the world. The Metro program is giving them confidence that their dreams of a successful and meaningful career can come true."

Each Metro Academy is a "school within a school," serving approximately 140 students in the first two years of college -- the time when the largest number of students drop out of college. Students move through a series of core courses as a cohort, in a learning community of linked courses that involve academic counseling and tutoring.

SF State has two Metro Academies -- one focusing on health and social services, started in 2007 and another in early childhood education begun in 2009. City College of San Francisco houses two parallel Metro Academies that allow community college students to easily transfer to SF State. Metro Academies is the first and only long-duration, cohort-style comprehensive learning community in the U.S. that has a full alignment between two-year and four-year segments.

The Metro Academies recently received a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to disseminate Metro Academies nationally. The grant will establish a national dissemination center that will provide training and technical assistance to postsecondary institutions to adopt the Metro Academies model, whether in the community college system, the CSU or institutions across the nation. The new grant will also provide seed money for SF State and City College to start one or two new Metro Academies on each campus.

The Metro Academy model has been successful in California, which ranks last among U.S. states in its percentage of Latino and African American students competing bachelor's degrees, relative to their percentage of the populations.

Metro Academies was previously awarded grants from the James Irvine Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The Mimi and Peter Haas Fund supported dissemination into early childhood education. 

San Francisco State University is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls more than 30,000 students each year. With nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema and biology to history, broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies -- the University's more than 180,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

-- University Communications


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