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Higher Education
San Jacinto College
News Release
Friday, August 19, 2011

Grant will help College’s First Year Experience program to expand

PASADENA, Texas – San Jacinto College’s (SJC) First Year Experience (FYE) program can expand thanks to a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) grant of $50,000 that will help to fund vital services that help new SJC students. This is the third consecutive year the grant has been awarded for a total of $150,000.

SJC launched the FYE program at all three campuses during the 2008-2009 academic year to help first-time students make the challenging transition to college life.

Retaining first-time students is a critical issue that many colleges face. According to 2008 research (the latest available), the National Center for Education Statistics estimated the number of first-time community college students in the Texas Gulf Coast area who left by the end of the first year, and the figures ranged between 20.2 and 59.2 percent. For the same time period, up to 47 percent of first-time-in-college students left San Jacinto College by the end of the first year.

“First-time college students have needs specific to their experience, and adjusting to college life can involve difficulties and challenges,” commented Dr. Brook Zemel, SJC vice president of student development. “Many are under-prepared. More than 60 percent of first-time college students need to take at least one college preparatory course for a variety of reasons. San Jacinto College is committed, long term, to the success of these first-time students, which led to the creation of FYE coordinator positions to oversee the new FYE program.”

Statistics show that the College’s FYE program is already producing positive results. “There were a number of improvements for the intervention group (students contacted through the FYE program) versus the non-intervention groups on all measured variables,” Zemel said. “Success rates and the percentage of students earning a grade point average of 2.0 or greater were impacted in a statistically significant manner at some of the campuses and College-wide.” Zemel noted that perhaps the most important finding was that overall, the male intervention group performed significantly better academically across the campuses and for nearly all ethnicities for all variables measured, than their non-intervention comparison cohort.

“Male students of all ethnicities seemed particularly to benefit from the FYE calling program,” he said. “This is particularly important since our college data, as well as state and national research, shows that community college male students are experiencing high rates of failure, via GPA and drop-out. Intervention through the calling program seems to be reversing that trend at San Jacinto College.”

FYE coordinators assist first-time students with a variety of resources and services, such as new student orientation, workshops, newsletters, tutoring services, social activities, and the innovative student calling program. The calling program is designed to improve student retention by connecting first-time students with trained student leaders, who keep in touch with new students through a series of phone calls. “We believe a peer-to-peer interaction yields better results,” Zemel remarked.

Angela Flores said participating as a calling program student leader is helping her to develop leadership and social skills. “Contacting new students helps me to overcome my natural shyness and it makes me feel like I am helping students be successful in college,” she commented.

Flores said she thrives on helping new students because she recalls times when she struggled as a college freshman and wished there had been something like the calling program to provide help and encouragement. “As a freshman I felt unmotivated at times, and I do feel that if I had received calls from another student encouraging me to keep going, and providing information about where to get help, then I would have done better academically,” said Flores, who lives in Pearland and graduated from Pearland High School.

If a student leader identifies a first-time student with specific needs, such as financial aid, educational planning, career counseling, or personal issues, then the student leader contacts a FYE coordinator, who in turn takes appropriate action. “This serves as an ‘early alert’ system for first-time students,” Zemel said.

Ninety percent of the THECB grant will go to pay for training and wages of the College’s FYE calling program student leaders, who receive $8.50 per hour for their services. The remaining 10 percent will fund supplies and activities that are specifically designed for first-time college students.

About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for 50 years. The College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of more than 29,000 students in over 140 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career-track choices. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or find us on Facebook at

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