More than 98,000 students return to classes Monday at Northeast Lakeview, Northwest Vista, Palo Alto, St. Philip's and San Antonio colleges.
Debi Gaitan, Northwest Vista College's vice president for student success, said this year the schools are stressing a Smart Start initiative to remind all students on all campuses that how they start the semester often determines how they will end it.
“Research and data has shown that if you are not there on that first day, it’s very difficult to catch up,” she said “... So we have a policy in place that requires students to be in class on the first day, and if they are not there and have not communicated the reasons why with their faculty they will be dropped.”
Gaitan said all students are now assigned a certified advisor.
“It is their partner and their mentor through their entire time with us through their degree, so we encourage students to meet their advisor as soon as possible to start that relationship,” she said.
Also, Gaitan said the district’s average class sizes of 20 to 25 students are designed to encourage student engagement in the learning process.
Christian Salano, who is a kinesiology major and wants to coach college track one day, agrees. He is wrapping up his last semester at Northwest Vista, near SeaWorld. He said he chose community college because of the smaller class sizes and a "family atmosphere."
District statistics show nearly 25 percent of its full-time, first-time-in-college students receive an associate degree, compared to the state average of around 20 percent.
It also retained 70 percent of its students from one fall semester to the next, compared to the state average of 58 percent.
The district also reports 89 percent of its students are part-time because of jobs or family obligations.
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org