July 9, 2019

Initiative Strives to Offset Barriers to College Completion

PORTSMOUTH –The mission of the Center for Academic Planning & Support (CAPS) at Great Bay Community College is to create a responsive learning environment for all students. Thanks to grant funding and other partnerships, the center is able to adapt its work to the shifting needs of students and to provide easy access to multiple sources of information.

Through a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which partially funds a position, and hiring of an AmeriCorps VISTA through Campus Compact NH, staff members Jody Mancini and Kimberly Cartier have collated and posted online resource information for students across the make-up of Great Bay’s increasingly diverse student body. The resources focus on a range of real-world issues in addition to academics – housing and transportation, for example – that impact young students and lifelong learners alike, and offers information toward solutions.

The impetus for gathering these resources was the recognition that many at-risk and low-income students needed help to stay in school and succeed, said CAPS Director Sharon Cronin.  Through the NH Charitable Foundation grant, GBCC has been partnering with Portsmouth Housing Authority, Portsmouth High School, and Portsmouth Adult Education.  “Our research shows that students from Portsmouth Housing do well academically, but are not likely to complete their programs.  We wanted to know, what are the barriers to completion? If not academics, what are the things getting in the way?” Cronin said.  

As barriers were explored and resources identified, we realized many of those barriers apply to other students as well, Cronin said, and we wanted to get information on the website to be readily accessible to both current students and those considering Great Bay. CAPS now has a Student Resource Guide regarding GBCC academic topics on their College Readiness page at http://www.greatbay.edu/student-services/academic-support/college-readiness and numerous community resources to support a wide range of needs on a new page at http://www.greatbay.edu/student-services/community-resources.  Having a list of resources all in one place is just one more way to facilitate a more manageable college experience.

In another new initiative, the new AmeriCorps VISTA in CAPS is creating a peer-mentoring program to help students transition to college. “We have found that a lot of students apply, but do not make it through the process, especially if they are first generation students to college,” Cronin said. “We are hoping a peer-mentoring program will help guide them through that process and the first year of college.”

CAPS is a multi-service center at GBCC supporting the academic needs of all credit-bearing students with free tutoring, academic counseling and placement testing, as well as specialized support for students with disabilities and international students, and a computer lab and career center for all. “We started as a tiny support area in the library back on the old Stratham campus with tutoring and disability services. We grew into a full center in 2002 and now we have a staff of eight, as well as several professional tutors, and many student workers,” Cronin said.

Still, CAPS would like to see more students be aware of and make use of the resources and services available to them at GBCC.  To that end, CAPS adheres to the National Association of Student Success motto:   Helping underprepared students to prepare, prepared students to advance, and advanced students to excel.

Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus in Rochester offers academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.  For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu