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Chesapeake College's SAIL Program Nominated for '08 Bellwether Award

Posted on Monday, October 29, 2007

WYE MILLS – An innovative Chesapeake College retention program has been nominated for a 2008 Bellwether Award.

The college´s Success and Interactive Learning (SAIL) Program – which emphasizes early retention interventions along with an uncommon tuition stipend for successful participants – will now compete with other nationwide nominees for the Bellwether Award, offered by the Community College Futures Assembly (CCFA). The CCFA is sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Higher Education.

"A Bellwether nomination is a prestigious achievement," said Dr. Stuart Bounds, Chesapeake College´s president. "SAIL was an innovative pilot project that has since been expanded into a very successful program. It´s a program that´s had a documented impact on student retention and persistence, and the College is honored for SAIL to be part of this competition."

SAIL, developed and still administered by Dean of Retention Services Joan Seitzer and Counselor Amy Childs, has a history of statewide and regional recognition.

The College Board´s Middle States Regional Council awarded SAIL a competitive Public Service Outreach Greenhouse Program Grant in 2004 during its start-up year based upon its unique combination of front-end retention services and financial incentives. The Maryland Community Colleges Vice Presidents and Deans of Student Services have since designated SAIL as a statewide "best practice." The program has also been a participant in numerous statewide and regional conferences highlighting successful retention initiatives.

SAIL participants during the Fall 2006 semester earned a 26 percent higher grade-point average than non-SAIL participants who started at Chesapeake College that semester. In addition, the fall-to-spring retention rate of Fall 2006 SAIL participants was 21 percent higher than non-SAIL participants.

"The data and the Bellwether nomination reaffirm what students involved in SAIL have already told us," said Dr. Richard Midcap, the college´s vice president for student success and enrollment services. "SAIL´s emphasis on early retention interventions along with incentives that help students stay in school truly allow us to influence student success and persistence."

SAIL participants – who must be first-time college students beginning their studies in the fall semester – have to pass the college´s Freshman Seminar Course (FSC 101) with a grade of "C" or better and attend Services Open Houses where they learn about all the academic support services the college has to offer. They also have to utilize services in three key areas: 1.) career interest testing/transfer advising; 2.) academic skills or technology workshops, or supplemental instruction; and 3.) membership in a student organization or participation in a college activity.

The payoff – literally – takes place each January when SAIL program completers begin the spring semester. Students who successfully complete SAIL and finished the fall semester with a 2.0 grade-point average or higher receive a tuition stipend. The stipend varies depending upon students´ GPA and whether they are full- or part-time students.

SAIL was initially only available to full-time students. Due to the program´s success, it was expanded to three-quarter-time students (those taking nine semester hours or more) in 2006. Further expansion of the program is being contemplated since successful SAIL participants continue to be retained and succeed at a higher rate than Chesapeake´s general student body.

"We are continually looking for ways to replicate the results we´ve seen in SAIL with other segments of our student population," said Seitzer.

Childs said one of the keys to SAIL´s success has been assisting first-generation college students – those who are the first members of their families to have a college experience – in navigating through unfamiliar waters.

"It´s important that we provide these students with the tools they will need to succeed at Chesapeake and beyond," said Childs.

Bellwether finalists will be competitively selected and invited to present at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Fla. That conference will take place January 26-29, 2008.

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