Student success at center of performance funding investments at FIU

7943530248_363da05860_kFIU student Christian Otero hopes to be a surgeon one day, but he had to dissect college algebra first.

Otero once entertained the idea of a culinary career, but switched gears. At FIU, the first time he took an algebra test – more than four years since he last took a math class – he scored 36 percent. He began going to FIU’s Math Mastery Lab, designed to help students succeed in college algebra, an important “gateway course” for FIU students. On subsequent tests he scored 97 percent and 100 percent.

“When I got an ‘A’ in the class it made me feel like I could move forward with my dream of being a doctor,” Otero said. “Getting that ‘A’ put medical school within my reach.” 

The Math Mastery Lab is just one example of how FIU is investing new resources in the continued success of its students. In 2014-15 FIU received $18.2 million under the new Performance Funding model. The money has been allocated with an eye on performance metrics and the success of students, as well as critical investments and library resources.

FIU has an ambitious goal of achieving a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent by 2020 and has created new student support programs to reach that goal. Successful programs – such as enhanced academic advising and the internship and career services office – have received additional funding and attention, as well.

The university is also redesigning 17 gateway courses, infusing many of them with technology. The Math Mastery Lab is one of the most promising new initiatives. It has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the pass rate of college algebra, which has traditionally challenged many students.

The introduction of the lab, which employs technology, as well as 30 full-time learning assistants to work one-on-one with students, has resulted in a 33 percent increase in the college algebra pass rate. The performance of students who take the same class online has improved even more: 65 percent now pass the class.

“Success in that one course opens many doors,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We are looking to use technology, improved methods and increased funding to continue to remove barriers so that our students can graduate on time.”

Rosenberg described FIU’s approach as “high tech and high touch.” Advisors are identifying students who may be struggling – for example, those who have not registered for classes. University officials are following up with e-mails and phone calls to determine if they are having difficulties and how the university can support them.

“We are committed to implementing a variety of approaches to improve student success,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton.

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