Closing the Gap: First Year Success in College Mathematics at an HBCU

Melissa A Harrington, Andrew Lloyd, Tomasz Smolinski, Mazen Shahin


At our Historically-Black University, about 89% of first-year students place into developmental mathematics, negatively impacting retention and degree completion. In 2012, an NSF-funded learning enrichment project began offering the introductory and developmental mathematics courses on-line over the summer to incoming science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at no cost. Passing rates for the summer on-line classes were around 80%, and students in the on-line classes scored equivalently on the common departmental final exams as students taking the classes in the traditional format. For students who passed the on-line classes, their performance in the following classes (College Algebra and Trigonometry) exceeded that of students who progressed to those courses by taking the traditional series of in-person courses. Three years of data show that students who started college with an on-line mathematics course in a summer bridge program had a higher first year GPA, a better first year retention rate and earned significantly more credits in their first year than the overall population of STEM students. These results suggest that offering introductory mathematics courses on-line as part of a freshman bridge program is an effective, scalable intervention to increase the academic success of students who enter college under-prepared in mathematics. The positive results are particularly exciting since the students in our project were 87% minority.


college algebra, developmental mathematics, remedial education, summer bridge, virtual bridge, minority, HBCU, underrepresented

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ISSN 1527-9316