GRCC’s FastTrack program receives national award



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


June 26, 2015 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College will receive a national award for its efforts to keep students on the path to graduation.

GRCC is one of three institutions that will accept Ruffalo Noel Levitz's Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award. The award recognizes innovative programs that have encouraged students to succeed and persist through graduation.

GRCC is being recognized for its FastTrack program, a free three-week summer learning lab targeted at incoming students who have academic potential but need further instruction in reading, writing and math to be ready for college-level courses. By strengthening their skills in this intensive program, these students can bypass remedial courses and be ready to start regular college classes in the fall.

This year, about 300 students are taking part in the first FastTrack session, which ran through June 25. About 600 students are expected to go through all three sessions scheduled for this summer. The other two sessions run July 6 to 23 and July 27 to Aug. 13.

FastTrack began as a pilot program in summer 2012. GRCC identifies students whose Accuplacer placement test scores indicate that they will need remedial courses in reading, English or math, and invites them to participate in FastTrack. Most students participate in the program for one subject, but a small number qualify in two subjects.

Of the 659 students who have completed the program since its start, almost 69 percent successfully continued to a college-level course in the following fall: 71.43 percent were ready for college-level English; 70.65 percent were set for college-level math and almost 62 percent were prepared to enter college-level reading courses.

Bypassing remedial courses saves students time and money, said Domingo Hernandez-Gomez, associate director of GRCC's College Success Center. In-district students will save $600 in tuition, fees and books for every remedial course they don't have to take, and out-of-district students save $1,200, he said.

FastTrack's success is built on the connections made between the students and their professional tutors and "coaches," Hernandez-Gomez said.

"Students tell us that it's making a difference, not just in allowing them to bypass developmental courses but in 'intangibles' as well," he said. "Our coaches meet with each student entering the program to learn about socioeconomic and personal challenges. We help them navigate the technical stuff -- advising, orientation and registering. We set expectations about college and the work it requires, and we immerse them in the campus environment so they are prepared for classes in the fall."

Last year, in an effort to get help to students earlier, FastTrack organizers began working with Union and Godwin Heights high schools with the support of the Wege Foundation. This summer, FastTrack is working with the following high schools:

  • Union High School in Grand Rapids.
  • Godwin Heights High School.
  • Central High School in Grand Rapids.
  • University Prep Academy in Grand Rapids.
  • Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids.
  • Wyoming High School.
  • Godfrey-Lee High School.
  • Kelloggsville High School.
  • Grandville High School.
  • Holland High School.
  • West Ottawa High School.
  • Zeeland high schools.

Students from these schools were signed up for the first FastTrack session of the summer and, through scholarships provided by the GRCC Foundation, will take a seven-week CLS 100-Introduction to College Life class for free during the second session.

"Adding CLS 100 helps keep the momentum going for these students," Hernandez-Gomez said. "They are learning the discipline they will need to succeed at GRCC in the fall."

To learn more about FastTrack, click here. GRCC will receive its award during the National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing and Retention, July 8 to 10 in Boston.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.