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Bridge to Success

Professor Bill Ebener’s dog Alvin walks around the classroom during the Bridge to Success program June 6, 2016, at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. Ebener brought Alvin because he epitomizes curiosity.

TWIN FALLS — Sometimes students just need a little guidance to help them succeed in college.

The College of Southern Idaho’s “Bridge to Success” program, which starts in June for its second summer, is one way students find success.

It helps first-time, degree-seeking students get started with their college education, and works with them until they graduate.

The program fits in with a bigger focus across Idaho: helping more students complete education beyond high school to meet workforce needs.

“These students are ones that may have not even been thinking about college, but their success has been terrific,” said John Hughes, CSI’s associate dean of student success.

It caught the attention of the state legislature, which appropriated $132,000 this session for the program.

It will allow CSI to hire a full-time program coordinator, hire summer adjunct instructors and help pay for other costs including textbooks.

Plus, CSI recently received two other one-year grants for the program: $20,000 from Idaho National Laboratory and Idaho STEM Action Center to help pay for instructional costs, and $25,000 from the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium to provide 16 scholarships to program participants.

Next summer, CSI hopes to expand the Bridge to Success program to two off-campus centers: Mini-Cassia and Jerome.

Last summer, 14 of the program participants were from Mini-Cassia and were bused to the Twin Falls campus.

The retention rate among students in the first Bridge to Success cohort hovers around 76 percent. And over three semesters, they have logged an average GPA of nearly 3.0.

“A lot of students are on track to graduate next spring,” Hughes said. “That means within two years they’re finishing their degree or certificate, which is remarkable.”

That compares with three to three-and-a-half years for the overall CSI student population, he said.

Bridge to Success students receive advising and mentoring throughout their college years, and participate in activities every semester.

This year’s new cohort begins an intensive 10-week program June 5 at CSI’s Twin Falls campus. More than 70 students applied and about 50 have committed to participating.

No students are denied. “We take as many as we can fund,” Hughes said.

Students will take anywhere from six to eight credits this summer, generally two classes, depending on which math class they’re taking.

Most students pay about $150 for the program — which has a $1,700 value — plus a $25 orientation fee. Need-based scholarships are offered through the CSI Foundation.

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Hughes gave the CSI board an update Monday on the program’s successes. Of 29 students who participated last summer, 23 finished this year’s spring semester.

The success rate of students in the program “trumped our regular students,” CSI President Jeff Fox told college trustees Monday.

The idea for Bridge for Success resulted from CSI officials looking at math success rates among students.

“We were concerned that math was a barrier to students earning their degree,” Hughes said.

Bridge for Success began with a focus on students interested in pursuing a science, technology, engineering or math-related degree.

“Really, the focus of the summer piece is to get students math ready or to complete their math class,” Hughes said.

This summer, the program will still help STEM students, but has expanded to help students pursuing other degrees as well, including in trade and industry programs such as diesel technology and welding.

“That’s been pretty neat,” Hughes said. “It allows us to really start to look at high-need programs and specifically recruiting for that.”


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