Schools starting to invest more in students’ welfare
By Holly J. Wagner
Even amid skyrocketing property values, it's harder to imagine an investor spending thousands of dollars on a property and then just walking away and hoping the investment will pay off. But that's what thousands of parents do each fall: After gutting their retirement nest egg to pay for tuition, they send their eager youth off to school and hope the money — often tens of thousands of dollars — is well spent.
But that's often a risky investment. Like properties, students may have issues that don't show up until the family is in danger of losing its investment and the future it promised.
"Only about half of students who go into college end up graduating," said Saskia Knight, vice president and dean of enrollment services at Chapman University in Orange. "Somehow there is this mind-set that this 17- or 18-year-old will master this transition and succeed in college."
Chapman is among a growing number of schools taking a proactive approach with programs designed to help students succeed not only with their academics, but with life skills they may not have developed in high school.
Administrators at Chapman and Marymount College in Palos Verdes are singing the praises of a program provided by InsideTrack, a company that pairs incoming freshman with mentors to help them navigate the college labyrinth. Both schools have tried the program by randomly selecting half the freshman class to pair with mentors.
"Over half our students live in college sponsored housing. You look at that 18-year-old and the transition they are making. They are not eating mom's food anymore, they are living with a roommate whom they have probably never met before who is probably from another part of the country. They have to get themselves out of bed in the morning," said Marymount College president Tom McFadden.
While those activities may seem mundane to the student's parents, it can be a whole new experience to the youngster.
Motivation in the classroom as well is an issues for all types of students. "The student who is struggling academically is easy to think of. But what about the student who is doing well and is even bored in class? We can help them find more challenges," said InsideTrack chief executive Alan Tripp, who developed the college-level program after leaving his prior venture, SCORE Educational Centers, whic help K-12 students.
InsideTrack coaches come from a variety of backgrounds, often related to education or psychology. They meet with their assigned students for 20 to 30 minutes each week to address problems, set goals and help students face challenges.
"This is a role parents find hard to play, even when their children are in high school," Tripp said. "The coach is the one who takes ownership of the goals [students] set and helping them to achieve those goals. Our goal is not to help them achieve what we want them to achieve, it's to help them decide what they want to achieve, and to do it."