The program allows any student who misses the original course enrollment deadline to enroll in an accelerated eight-week course midway through the semester.
Delgado Community College in New Orleans had a recurring problem. Too many students were showing up too late in the registration process to begin classes on time. By the time they were squared away with financial aid and course materials, several crucial weeks of the semester had already passed, leaving students off to an unequal start and far less likely to succeed. Yet, faculty and administrators knew that turning students away and suggesting they wait until the next semester meant that many of them might not return.
"We needed an opportunity to engage students at the point they made the important decision to pursue higher learning," says Ashley Chitwood, executive dean at Delgado's Northshore campus. Second Start emerged from this dilemma. The program allows any student who misses the original course enrollment deadline to enroll in an accelerated eight-week course midway through the semester.
In spring 2014—the first semester the college offered Second Start—169 students signed up. By fall 2014, 347 students enrolled in as least one Second Start class. For spring 2015, the program reached 1,000 participants.
Now that the college has completed several cycles of Second Start, the data are showing some interesting developments, notes Chitwood. "While the program was initially created in response to first-time students who needed a bit more transition time to begin their studies, we noticed that growing numbers of current students were also taking advantage of Second Start courses as a means to add a course to keep on track toward degree completion." Of the spring 2015 Second Start registrants, approximately 40 percent were current students taking the opportunity to pick up additional classes, says Chitwood.
The original impetus behind Second Start—to ensure students are ready to begin their studies as of Day One—has required working closely with faculty to get course syllabi and supporting materials into the hands of students in advance. "We also send a series of e-mails leading up to the midsemester course to remind students of the start date and to point them to our free developmental content available online that students can use as refresher to brush up on skills prior to the start of their classes," says Chitwood.
Second Start courses are offered in three formats:
For the spring 2015 semester, the college offered 100 sections of Second Start courses, 50 of which were fully online. "Because not all Second Start courses are offered in all three formats, our advisers work closely with students when they register to ensure that they select the format that best suits them for the particular course they want to take," says Chitwood. Students are also welcome to enroll in classes at any of the college's six locations, she adds.
Primary focus to date has been on offering Second Start courses that have the broadest appeal for the majority of students and courses that are required for most programs. For fall 2015, faculty are considering offering developmental courses as part of Second Start. Because of the compressed schedule, these courses would be targeted to first-time students scoring in the upper zone of their placement test who would be more likely to succeed with that faster pace, notes Chitwood. "Through Second Start, we now have a viable alternative for accommodating students who miss registration deadlines, and one more tool for helping students move through their degree curriculum more quickly."
-- this article appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Business Officer, a publication of the National Association of College and University Business Officers.