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Buffalo State program looks to boost graduation rates

The State University of New York is hoping a new remedial math course for entering students will save money and help 20,000 at-risk students graduate.

The state's community colleges spend more than $70 million a year on remediation of entering students and those students are paying tuition even though those remedial courses don't count for graduation.

Students are now getting a new program for math help. It teaches study and motivational skills in addition to math and is said to work to work quicker and get better results than the classes that are currently being offered.

John Siskar, Buffalo State's senior advisor for educational pipeline initiatives, says the highest risk groups are first generation, impoverished and minority students. Siskar says he was a first generation student who initially dropped out.
"If you don't have anybody in your immediate support group that's done that kind of thing, you can really struggle for a long time," Siskar said.

"Some of it is understanding college culture. Some of it is learning how to be a good self-advocate. Some of it's learning some basic study skills and time management."

All of that often means students are paying full tuition for remedial courses which don't count toward graduation but can pile up loans.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes says with public schools turning out academically troubled students, it's not fair to charge tuition for remedial courses. Often, the students drop out and still have those loans for those remedial courses.

"If you look at what has been coming out of public education for the last 20 or so years, you would have to assume that many students are not really prepared for college. But, here's the thing that I don't like and I have a very low tolerance for, it's charging people tuition for something that they can't get credit for and they end up with bills that they have to pay," said Peoples-Stokes.

Peoples-Stokes says Buffalo students are now doing better because of Say Yes to Education, which helps kids get ready for college, academically and with knowledge about college and how to get help if needed.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.