Underrepresented students’ first-semester GPA may be a better predictor of whether they’ll graduate college than their ACT score or their family’s socioeconomic status, a new study found.Researchers at the University of Illinois tracked the academic achievement and degree status of more than 1,900 U. of I. freshmen across a six-year period, beginning when the students first enrolled at the university in 2005 or 2006. The sample was selected to focus on students who were low-income, attended underresourced high schools and/or were historically underrepresented based on race or geography, and who could have completed an undergraduate program within six years.The researchers examined the impact of individual characteristics such as race and gender, along with factors such as the academic units and majors freshmen were enrolled in during their first semester on campus. Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share Of the 69 percent of students who earned diplomas within six years, the researchers found that the composite ACT scores of students who graduated and those who dropped out were nearly identical – 24.5 and 24.1 points, respectively.Racial minorities, who constituted 93 percent of the sample, graduated at higher rates than did the white students who were low-income or from underrepresented counties within Illinois, according to the paper, published in the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice.The freshmen who persisted to graduation had significantly higher first-semester GPAs – 2.84 versus 2.20, respectively – compared with peers who left without earning a degree, according to principal investigator Susan Gershenfeld, who conducted the research while earning a doctorate in social work at the U. of I.Gershenfeld also is the former director of the university’s Illinois Promise program, a scholarship program that covers all of the educational costs – including tuition, books and living expenses – for the most disadvantaged in-state students.“The goal of the research was to help us better understand why some students are not successful, even when some of their financial barriers to college access are removed,” said co-author Denice Ward Hood, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership at Illinois.In the sample, about 44 percent of the students who enrolled in 2005 and nearly 46 percent of those who enrolled in 2006 received federal Pell Grants.Most of the students also were eligible for Illinois Promise and/or two other campus initiatives aimed at promoting the access and success of underrepresented students: a merit program that, at the time, provided $1,000 scholarships annually to high-achieving freshmen, and a program that provided support services such as advising and help with study skills – but no scholarships – to students from underrepresented school districts in Illinois.Freshmen with first-semester GPAs of up to 2.33 were about half as likely to graduate as students who had GPAs in the 3.68 to 4.0 range, the researchers found.“What this research shows is that students who are above that 2.0 cutoff, but below 2.33, are at significant risk of not graduating. Waiting until a student hits a 2.0 GPA or lower may be too late,” Gershenfeld said. “Freshmen with first-semester GPAs of up to 2.33 should be targeted as particularly vulnerable to attrition.”University and federal student aid policies require that students maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA – a C average – on a 4.0 scale. Students’ whose GPAs drop below 2.0 are placed on academic probation and offered services such as advising, mentoring or tutoring.Universities’ approaches to identifying students who may need academic help, based upon their GPAs, and the types of support services offered to these students have changed relatively little over the past three decades, said Ward Hood, who was an academic adviser to at-risk students at another university early in her career.The conventional practice has been to tell freshmen not to be too concerned about their grades unless they can’t pull their GPA up during their second semester, and to suggest they be more selective with their class schedules, balancing one or two difficult subjects with several easier courses each term, Ward Hood said.“There are some things that suggest that we need to re-examine what we’re doing and learn what’s really going on with these students so we can personalize or target our interventions. Maybe what we’re giving them is a handful of forks when what they really need is a spoon,” Ward Hood said.A first step toward developing effective interventions is for scholars to identify the underlying factors that may be negatively affecting these students’ first-semester grades and ultimately their prospects of graduating, the researchers suggest.“First-semester GPA is the proverbial canary in the coal mine,” Gershenfeld said. “This research shows the need to intervene for students with a first-semester GPA below 2.33. At a time when great attention is focused on the graduation rates of underrepresented students, here is valuable evidence of how we can make a difference.”
Matt Loede Matt Loede has been a part of the Cleveland Sports Media for over 21 years, with experience covering Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, the National Football League and even high school and college events. He has been a part of the Cleveland Indians coverage since the opening of Jacobs/Progressive Field in 1994, and spent two and a half years covering the team for 92.3 The Fan, and covers them daily for Associated Press Radio. You can follow Matt on Twitter HERE. Related TopicsBravesCorey KluberfeaturedIndiansMLB CLEVELAND – The Indians offense has waited all year to put up a big inning, and finally on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, the most unlikely players came through to make it happen.Helped out by a number of key two-out hits, the Tribe scored six times in the fifth, and with Corey Kluber settling in, the Indians won their 12th game against seven losses, topping Atlanta 8-4.The win puts the team at 6-1 at Progressive Field, a number they will look to improve on in game two of the doubleheader against the Braves.Kluber was shaky early, but settled in to go seven innings, allowing four runs on five hits to move to 2-2 on the season.There’s a lot of positives around this victory, and here’s a couple takeaways as the team will look for the sweep of the twin bill in the nightcap.1. Spreading the WealthThe fifth inning was highlighted by a huge two-out hit by Greg Allen, whose average was hoovering around .030 before he came through with the RBI single that made it a 3-2 Indians lead.Little did everyone in attendance know it would be the first of a barrage, as from there it would be the first of seven straight Indians to reach base.Starting with Allen, it went like this – single, single (Naquin), walk (Plawecki), single (Moroff), single (Martin), walk (Ramirez), single (Kipnis).All in all the inning saw the Tribe push six runs across on six hits with two runners left on base. The big inning broke the game open at 8-2, and from there Kluber was able to put it on cruise control to earn his second win of 2019.2. Max a Million When you’re looking for someone to have a big day at the plate, not many times would you look to Max Moroff to be that guy.Saturday the former Pirate came through for the Indians, going 2-for-3 with a homer, walk, two RBI and two runs scored in the 8-4 win.It was Moroff’s first multi-hit game of the season and first since May 11th of last season against San Francisco with Pittsburgh.Moroff tied the game at two with a one-out homer in the 4th inning, his first home run of the season and as a member of the Tribe (last, July 14 vs. Milwaukee with Pittsburgh).Now with Francisco Lindor back Moroff will shift into a utility role with the infield, but it was nice to see him come through with a couple nice swings at the plate in the win.3. Kluber Settles InAfter a not so hot start, Corey Kluber was able to settle in and do a nice job on the mound, going seven innings total, giving up four runs on five hits with two walks and eight K’s.He matched a season-high in strikeouts (8, April 9 at Detroit) and innings pitched (7.0, March 28 at Minnesota). He also set down 11 straight from the 3rd inning through the 6th inning until allowing consecutive solo home runs to Brian McCann and Matt Joyce to start the 7th inningOverall his pitches had a lot more movement, and more importantly he had a lot more control after allowing two walks and a run in the first inning.Kluber improved to 15-7 with a 2.73 ERA (51ER/168.1IP) against the National League, tied for the 4th-lowest ERA in Interleague play among active pitchers (min. 15 starts).