SF Delegation Presenting Proposal to U.S. Department of Education

Santa Fe College will be in the national spotlight on July 28, when Dr. Angela Long, Coordinator for Student Leadership and Activities, and the members of a Santa Fe-based student research team, meets with Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter in Washington, D.C., to present the results of a homegrown initiative. The goal of the meeting is to discover ways to reduce the national community college dropout rate of approximately 50 percent.

What makes this presentation unique is that this is the first time a student-led initiative regarding education will be heard. Analysts or administrators usually create policy, but this proposal is the work of four students and Long. The proposal is based on a five-point program the group put together. They leveraged Long’s extensive research on college dropout rates for a base, added their own input, and then ran it through focus groups until they produced a proposal they felt could really make a difference.

“This is a need that needs to be addressed,” says student Patrick McConn, FJCCSGA District IV Legislative Liaison and a member of the development team.

The idea started during a spring break community service trip to D.C. by Student Government president Austin Brinza and Long. During the trip Brinza was scheduled to meet with Under Secretary Kanter. He invited Long to join him for the meeting. They spent an hour with Kanter who solicited them for ideas on how to reduce the dropout rate. Brinza offered to create a committee and get back to her. That meeting led to the creation of the SF-based research group.

The proposal the group crafted is called “Five Pathways to Persistence.” The five factors include creating:

  • financial aid opportunities and packages in a timely and efficient manner
  • opportunities for bonding between faculty and students
  • a “freedom to fail” attitude that accepts that mistakes are a part of the learning process
  • opportunities to be engaged in leadership roles
  • an exciting and engaging campus experience.

After its initial meeting, the group, which includes Long, Brinza, McConn, Frederick Parks Jr. and Brittany Peterson, met with the SF administration, which immediately got on board.

Dr. Sasser is rock solid on the project,” says Long. “There has been a tremendous response school wide,” she added. Dr. Sasser plans to accompany the group for the D.C. presentation.

The July 28 presentation date works well with the current administration’s announced goals. President Barrack Obama has charged the Department of Education with coming up with a plan by August that would help reduce the dropout rate.

“The timing is literally perfect,” says Long.

While the proposal is not a grant, Long says Kanter has the option to fund the program right away. If so, SF could serve as a test model, and if successful, could roll it out statewide or nationally. The program could also be used at other educational levels beside college as it approaches basic student needs at all levels.

In the photo, left to right: Patrick McConn, Austin Brinza, Dr. Angela Long, Frederick Parks Jr.

~This press release by David Hackett, Communication Specialist, College Relations