Alfred Rojas wasn’t sure what to expect when he decided to enroll at Guttman Community College. On one hand, he says, there was much to be excited about. If he graduated, he would become the first on his mother’s side of the family to earn a college degree. Participating in class every day, he thought, would help him overcome his fear of public speaking. And a college education would help him land a job, he reasoned.
But Mr. Rojas, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., was also nervous. It was the fall of 2012, and Guttman, the newest community college in the City University of New York system, was getting ready to welcome its inaugural first-year class. What if the college wasn’t what Mr. Rojas thought it would be? What if its experiential first-year program didn’t work?
“Looking back, I know I made the right choice,” says Mr. Rojas, who will graduate as a member of the inaugural class in August.
More than a year and a half after Guttman opened its doors, many administrators, faculty and staff members, and students say that the Manhattan institution’s first-year program—its academic hallmark—appears to be working. The program is an intensive, highly structured experience aimed at improving student engagement and retention rates. First-year students must attend full time. The curriculum draws upon the city itself, in courses that look at urban issues like sustainability and immigration, and spells out specific learning outcomes as goals. <Read more.>