Success at Seneca

Success at Seneca 
Seneca services highlighted in the April 2010 edition of the Educational Policy Institute Student Success online magazine and on Academica on April 26, 2010(Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology – Canada: A Leader in Polytechnic Education)

Retention programs utilize a combination of academic and social factors to help students, especially those who are at-risk, to succeed at the two-year, four-year, and proprietary levels. Outstanding Student Retention Award recipients show excellence in the development and implementation of their student retention program. This year, we at The Educational Policy Institute present Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Canada with the 2009 OSRA.

Over the years, Seneca has proved to be outstanding, transforming itself to a school of the students—where students’ objectives come first, and always. “Seneca is leading the way for other institutions of higher education to focus on student success,” said Watson Scott Swail, president of the Educational Policy Institute. 

…Seneca exerts continuing efforts to expand its career opportunities, implementing the best resources to promote student success. As part of its strategic plan, Seneca writes that it strives “to provide multiple pathways and supports for students to achieve their educational goals,” and since its conception, Seneca has done just that.

…“At Seneca, we’re proud of our diploma, graduate certificate, and bachelor’s degree programs. We’re also proud of our faculty and staff,” said president of Seneca College, David Agnew. “But we’re even more proud of our students—and their success.”

In Ontario, 40 per cent of college students never graduate, 47 per cent of incoming students score below the required English level, and 72 per cent of Ontario college applicants are concerned about having enough funds to complete their college education…Furthermore, college surveys indicate that the main reasons that students leave Seneca include financial struggles, a lack of career direction, difficulties with the transition to college life, and academic under-preparedness. 

Seneca was determined to target these at-risk students and to help them adequately prepare for success with their educational goals—the college has done this by providing programs that have traditionally been unavailable, like the twenty-four week “Work on Track” program, in which adult students with mental health issues receive career planning and job coaching with the last 12 weeks being spent in an unpaid work placement. Seneca has adopted a culture of change in which the student, and their success, is always top priority.

In September 2007, Seneca implemented a program called Foundations for Success. The purpose of the program is to test whether a combination of academic tutoring, peer mentoring, career exploration support and financial incentives will reduce the attrition rate of at-risk students at Seneca College. Each of the four semesters during the program, more than 2,000 at-risk students participate. 

Foundations for Success is the first research project in Canada to measure the impact of interventions for at at-risk students who are likely to not complete their college education…In Fall 2005 Seneca introduced its newest retention program, “SUCCESS@Seneca.”

At Seneca College, 4,000 students receive need-based government aid. Minority students and students with disabilities make up 44 percent of the entire student population; only 53 percent of all undergraduate students receive a diploma in 2 years; and only 34 percent of minority undergraduate students get their diploma in 2 years. That is, 66 percent of minority undergraduate student do not receive their degree within the two-year timeframe. Seneca wanted to target these students and initiate drastic changes with these numbers. A comprehensive, extensive and holistic approach was needed to guide students toward a successful academic journey, with little hassle. Enter, SUCCESS@Seneca.

SUCCESS@Seneca is connected with three specific college programs: General Arts and Sciences, Applied Science and Technology, and Business fundamentals. The program reaches out to college students who are deemed to be ‘at-risk’ such as minority students, low-income students, first generation students, students with disabilities, and under prepared students from a wide range of college programs.

…Seneca is deserving of the 2009 Outstanding Student Retention Award because when it comes to the students’ success, they make sure to involve everyone—students, parents, staff, faculty. Everyone. When Seneca first opened its doors, it strove to be a transformative leader in student success—it hasn’t showed anything less. SUCCESS@Seneca Program Director, Steven Fishman notices, “Students become more effective. Not only here at college, but also with their personal development, and with that comes success.”

Since the implementation of SUCCESS@Seneca four years ago, students involved are 28.6 percent less likely to withdraw from their academic program, 22.6 percent more likely to successfully attain academic promotion, and are more likely to see an increase in their GPA of 1.25 points. These big steps toward student success are why we at EPI deem Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology deserving of the 2009 Outstanding Retention Award. Congratulations to Seneca College for outstanding retention during 2009.

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