Anthony Shields-Fiffe, a student and football player at Fayetteville State University, took classes on campus during the summer and earned six credits. The university paid for his tuition, room and board.
“It helped me because they allowed me to live on campus and take my classes,” he said. “It really helped with some of the events they put on.”
Shields-Fiffe said the program was a lot of fun and helped her improve her grades: “It was a good experience.”
FSU’s 30-60-90 Summer School aims to increase retention rates and keep students on the path to graduation.
Shields-Fiffe is a sophomore and graduate of Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville. He is majoring in social work at FSU.
For him, the summer program not only helped him stay on track for graduation, but also gave him the chance to do some extra practice for the team while he was on campus. He also attended events to hone the skills he would need in college and after graduation.
“I went to one of the events where he was showing us how to be professional,” he says.
The 30-60-90 Summer School was launched in April and refers to the minimum number of credits students must earn each school year to stay on track to receive a degree. The university is using federal relief funds related to COVID-19 to cover the cost of 30-60-90 and other retention initiatives.
Chancellor Darrell Allison said in April the aim of the summer program was to make the offer so attractive that students can’t say no.
“Students falling behind out of the gate, it’s hard, very, very hard,” he said at the time.
In an interview last Wednesday, Allison said 30-60-90 was a promising start. He said the summer program is set up to cover tuition, room and board for the next two years. Going forward, tuition will still be covered at a minimum, up to nine credits.
“The key for us is to maximize this opportunity for the students who populate this campus and really learn who Fayetteville State University is today,” he said.
He noted the school’s past as a historically black school and the second oldest public school in the UNC system.
“We’re an HBCU in 1867, we’re an HBCU in 2021,” he said. “But we are very different today – but I think for the best.”
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He said the university has 80 percent rural students, nearly 30 percent military, and “we’re the leader in the UNC system for adult learners, nearly 50 percent.”
Allison added, “We’re an HBCU and more.”
He says that for non-traditional students, including adult learners, many don’t have much time for extracurricular activities and want to “do it and go” when it comes to a degree. Many adult learners attend the summer program, he says. A total of approximately 1,400 students attended classes on campus over the summer.
Allison said FSU recently got retention numbers; they illustrate the challenges that remain, showing hundreds of students who are not where they need to be in terms of credits.
The summer program isn’t the only way the school is looking to help. In July, the school announced it had written off $1.6 million in student debt, using pandemic funds for any student with an outstanding balance during the pandemic. As a result, 1,442 students entered the fall class debt-free, according to a news release.
The university has nearly doubled the number of faculty advisors and is also planning a “one-stop” Bronco operation in the Charles W. Chesnutt Library. It will serve as a place where students can get help with any logistical or other challenges they face in their college career. The one-stop shop is meant to cover “everything you need to know as a student,” says Allison.
The university has a class of students called “stop-outs” – who, for poorly understood reasons, stop attending.
“They didn’t sign up,” Allison said. “Whether advising, or maybe somewhere in that time period, we could have caught them, redirected them and put them back on track.”
He said conversations he had with student leaders showed a need for more counselors and improved communications between students and counselors. Even these highly motivated students found themselves frustrated.
“We can’t be a traditional-minded institution, like we were in 1980, 1990,” Allison said. “We are no longer that. Then on top of that — coronavirus. It’s just a different game.
“It really helped me”
As for Shields-Fiffe, it is sold to the summer program. He says he would recommend it to any student who wants to catch up.
He said that without the program, he would have tried to add classes to his fall load — a difficult proposition with football also on his schedule (the Broncos compete later this month for the CIAA championship at Salem, Va.)
“It really helped me with that,” he said.
Opinion Editor Myron B. Pitts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3559.
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