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The Learning Connection at Georgian Court University

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TLC: A Tutoring and Coaching Model for Students with Disabilities at Georgian Court University

Guest post by Luana E. Fahr, M.S. Ed, LDT-C

When students consider postsecondary education, they wonder anxiously if they will ever be able to persist to graduation. The questions that go through minds of college-bound students often include: Should I even go to college? If I go to college, will I ever graduate? Are there support programs that can assist me?

In addition to these questions, students with disabilities have many other questions, including whether or not they will have individual education plans (IEPs) in college, or if there are people and assistive technologies to support their learning differences. Will they receive the accommodations and modifications that they received in their previous years of schooling?

Often, students begin their journey in community colleges to explore their questions without incurring the expense of a four-year institution. There are, however, traditional institutions that provide tutoring and coaching models that have been proven to be very successful in both retention and graduation rates of students with learning disabilities. Under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), most colleges and universities must provide academic accommodations for students. The question remains, however, if students perform better with support beyond ADA accommodations.

Exploring The Learning Connection

At Georgian Court University, we have found that supporting students with disabilities in a holistic manner greatly improves the retention and graduation of students with learning disabilities—from ADHD and autism spectrum disorders to psychological or neurological challenges.

Students who need support beyond their regular ADA accommodations may enroll in GCU’s fee-based program of tutoring and coaching, which is designed to assist students both academically and personally. This program, The Learning Connection (TLC), includes individual tutoring with a professional staff member; coaching in time management, testing strategies, and study skills; and tracking of grades and performance in coursework. Self-advocacy is greatly encouraged, as it is a major component of academic and personal confidence.

What makes this particular model so successful? Students with disabilities have displayed high retention rates, high cumulative GPAs, and high graduation rates after utilizing GCU’s TLC program.

Why TLC Works

Student participants credit not only the professional tutoring and coaching, but the very strong bonds they form with their academic development specialist (ADS). Through TLC, students enter a nurturing environment where “someone really cares” about their success and well-being.

Students are guaranteed two hours of scheduled tutoring and coaching each week , and sessions begin with initial questions about life, adjustment issues, and concerns that may be interfering with performance. The ADS then assists the students with the work they have brought in.

The ADS is a master of all trades, proficient in many subject areas, and dedicated to the emotional and academic success of the student. He or she is the personal cheerleader, resource person, tutor, and sounding board for a student’s concerns.

Does this make the student dependent?  No. The ADS helps the student self-advocate, problem solve, and think critically, while fostering greater independence and academic success.

Measuring Success

Student grades and performance are tracked through midterm reports and semester grade statistics. Last year, there was a 95 percent continuation rate of students within the program. In addition, 90 percent of participating students fell into the GPA range of 2.4 to 4.0 in both the fall and spring semesters, and 80 percent had a cumulative GPA in the range of 3.0 to 4.0. Among our four TLC graduates in 2017, one graduated summa cum laude and one graduated magna cum laude. Our students have also received awards and honors, including:

  • the Sister Mary Geis Award
  • the Officer Christopher Matlosz Award
  • Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities
  • Kappa Gamma Pi Honors
  • Academic Excellence
  • Diversity and Inclusion Awards
  • Emerging Leader Awards
  • the Ambassador Award
  • GCU’s Criminal Justice Award
  • GCU’s Communication Leadership Award
  • Graphic Design and Multimedia Excellence Honors

Beyond GCU: Life After Graduation

What happens after graduation? Many students go to graduate school or enter the workforce. They also keep in contact with their ADS after graduation, and the ADS is often invited to weddings, baby showers, and other special occasions!

The student who may have been told that he should not consider college or who is reminded that she is just wasting her time trying to get into college, is now ready . . . ready to enter the world as a college graduate who has grown in maturity, academic preparation, and self-confidence. It’s amazing what a little TLC can do!

Luana E. Fahr, LDT-C, is the director of the Academic Development and Support Center (ADSC) at Georgian Court University.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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