Supporting Sophomores and Preventing The Slump

by Gabrielle Thompson - Director of Access and Opportunity Programs at The State University of New York (SUNY) Jefferson / Oct 28, 2019

The State University of New York’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) provides access, academic support, and supplemental financial assistance to make higher education possible for students who have the potential to succeed at a SUNY college despite poor preparation and limited financial resources.

While community colleges across the country have embraced the idea that special programming focuses specifically on freshmen or first-year students as crucial to retention, it is often at the expense of a reduced emphasis on continuing students. At Jefferson Community College, we employ full departmental budgets geared toward encouraging students to attend our institution for the first time and keeping them through the full second or sometimes third year, as well as retaining them through graduation. This is how we measure true success.

As a call to action, EOP is encouraging sophomore programming through additional budgetary support. This funding is available to existing programs that submit a request for funds with an outline of the support services and activities planned specifically for their returning second-year students. At Jefferson Community College, returning sophomores who are a part of EOP were welcomed back to campus a week earlier this fall, at no cost, for special programming and events focused on their needs, similar to the Welcome Weekend push designed for freshmen.

Fully supporting the idea that colleges should create and support welcoming and beneficial programs for their second-year students, Jefferson Community College’s EOP Post-Freshmen Program features career exploration, professional etiquette, meditation techniques, and transfer planning. Many freshmen orientations cover these topics in some fashion but are easily lost in the overload of “new” that first-year students are exposed to and expected to grasp. The idea of bringing second-year students back to campus for a special session devoted just for them reinforces the principle that continuing student enrollment is just as important, if not more important, to our data, with the ultimate goal of achieving degree completion.

Our goal is for SUNY's second-year students to feel like they matter to the institution as much as new students."

We are excited about this effort and our goal is for SUNY’s second-year students to feel like they matter to the institution as much as new students. This is a great opportunity to provide encouragement, help returning students gain on-campus employment, and create a sense of community for students who have gone through shared experiences as seasoned classroom learners.

Gabrielle Thompson is an Engaging Excellence in Equity Fellow who has participated in convenings designed to identify culturally responsive practices and further support-building evidence and capacity for this work. Learn more about this project.