Feb 08, 2014 1:00 am

The path toward earning a college degree or certificate is often paved with challenges and complications, but also personal achievements and successes. And in maintaining its mission to provide quality educational opportunities to a diverse community of learners, Pierce College is investing more resources into truly understanding the obstacles students face.  With the school’s involvement in Achieving the Dream, Pierce College is tracking the reasons students are successful, and why some leave without a college degree or certificate. 

The biggest reason students leave without a degree: math. For some people, it can cause so much anxiety that it becomes a road block that has the potential to stand in the way of earning a college degree. This is a national trend that community colleges face, and Pierce College is at the forefront of facing these issues head-on.

Currently, students who test into the lowest level of math courses are required to pass four pre-college math courses before moving onto college level classes.

A proposed redesign of these classes will take into account the students who are not interested in pursuing a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. The new sequence would allow students to take two condensed precollege math courses before moving on in their college careers. Students pursuing degrees in the STEM fields will be required to take the same two courses, along with Intermediate Algebra for Pre-calculus before enrolling in college level math classes. The new sequence will be piloted this Spring.

The new courses have been redesigned based on a system developed by the Carnegie Foundation, called Quantway. One of the courses will require that students work in groups to solve complex problems, with guidance from the instructor when needed. To ensure students are successful, supplemental instruction will be ramped up to provide additional one-on-one help. “Students will learn how to think mathematically in these classes,” said Tom Broxson, Pierce College’s Achieving The Dream co-chairman.

The new requirements will decrease the chance of students failing courses and accelerate their ability to earn that degree or certificate.

“The vast majority of our students are first generation college students, and if we can get them through precollege math more efficiently, it will help them stick around longer and eventually graduate with a degree,” he said.