At the outset, the College of Idaho enrolled 51 first-generation Latino students. The CIC/Walmart College Success Award helped the college undertake several initiatives benefitting Latino first-generation students. The largest expenditure in the program was for additional scholarships for 19 students with financial need.
To support the longer-term goals for this population, the staff undertook research to identify available ESL and Spanish-language software to support language work. Additional research identified external Spanish-language assessments to evaluate students’ progress and learning outcomes. This emphasis on language required purchasing new computers for the Writing Center, hiring new tutors who were Spanish majors, and adding sections of ESL course work.
A variety of leadership and cultural enrichment activities included field trips, a “cultural dinner” attended by 200, conferences, and career-oriented and cultural-awareness programming. All first-generation Latino students participated in a bilingual parent/family orientation program and an end-of-year celebration and ceremony for students and their families. Throughout the year, participants worked with student tutors and peer mentors, and members of the college staff stayed in touch with parents through phone calls, home visits, events on campus, and electronic networking.
During the two years of the program, the college hosted a leadership conference for first-generation Latino high school students from the local area. This brought large numbers of potential Latino students to the campus for purposes of leadership development activities.
The program’s primary goal was increased retention, which was partially achieved. For all first-year students from first to second semester in 2008–2009, retention was 87.5 percent; for first-generation Latino students it was 92 percent. For the year, however, retention was 74.4 percent for the whole class and 63 percent for the first-generation Latino students.
For the year there was a GPA gap between the whole class and the grant’s targeted Latino campus population, but it was modest: 3.0 for the whole class versus 2.85 for program participants. The result, given prior preparation of the targeted population, suggests the program did serve to improve academic performance.
Finally, the program improved admission rates for Hispanic students.
Many aspects of the program were already in place or represented one-time costs, such as meeting space or computers. Thus, these activities continue. Where funding was used to more robustly fund ongoing activities, the success helped make the case for sustained funding. The college also picked up the responsibility for additional scholarships.