LaGuardia Community College Honored as Nation’s Best in Serving Disadvantaged Students

Long Island City, NY–In a nationwide competition among community colleges, LaGuardia Community College has been awarded the prestigious MetLife Foundation’s 2006 Community College Excellence Award for successfully helping underserved students meet their academic and career goals. LaGuardia shares this honor with Indian River Community College in Florida.

“MetLife Foundation established the Community College Excellence Award to bring national attention to the important role community colleges play in providing educational access and opportunity to students of all backgrounds,” said Sibyl Jacobson, MetLife Foundation president and CEO. “Through the awards, MetLife Foundation accelerates the diffusion of effective practices and policies by recognizing institutions that promote and support the education of underserved students.”

LaGuardia, which serves one of the country’s most diverse ethnic student populations, was recognized for developing innovative programs and activities specifically designed for students who need English language and basic skills instruction.

“Our students, who come from 160 countries and speak 110 languages, face significant skill barriers to college success,” said President Gail O. Mellow. “We are so honored to be chosen from among the over 1,200 community colleges in the United States as a MetLife Excellence Award winner. It is a tribute to our extraordinary faculty and staff and their personal commitment to combining the highest academic standards with a warm and welcoming environment. At LaGuardia, we like to say that ‘the Exceptional is the Rule’ — and this award recognizes our success in making students’ dreams come true.”

The college has pioneered First-Year Academies, which are self-contained learning communities linking basic skills and content courses. Each incoming freshman, depending on his or her major, is placed in one of three academies (business/technology, allied health, and liberal arts). In these “schools-within-a school,” students take basic skills courses linked with discipline-area courses as well as career development courses.

“This process ensures that students are quickly engaged with the degree program they hope to pursue,” said Dr. Paul Arcario, dean of Academic Affairs. “Embedding developmental and ESL courses in learning communities links students quickly to the content of their major and allows them to take credit-level courses up to two semesters earlier than would be expected.”

The academies, still in the pilot stage, have reduced students’ failure rates, course attrition rates, and semester-to-semester attrition rates.

The college is a national leader in the use of ePortfolios, which are electronic collections of student work. Portfolios allow students to develop an on-line resume, to demonstrate their success in class projects, and to link and to reflect on their classes. It is a way to create intellectual coherence from the scatter of classes students often attend. Students can then share their college work with family, even family members from other countries.

LaGuardia also serves its unique student body by establishing a sense of community through programs like mentoring, tutoring, online advisement, Opening Sessions for New Students, and common readings.

As a result of these strategies, the college’s five-year graduation rate is higher than the national average for community colleges and in 2004 it was among the top 25 community colleges for degrees granted to minorities.

The MetLife award is the latest honor bestowed upon the college for its innovative approaches to teaching. It has received awards from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, MetLife Retention Initiative, and the National Policy Center on the First Year of College. The two winners will each receive $30,000. They were honored at a national conference in Long Beach, California on April 23.

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on the company’s longstanding tradition of community involvement and contributions. The Foundation supports education, health, civic and cultural programs throughout the United States. For more information, visit MetLife Foundation’s Web site at

LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Its vibrant and culturally diverse student body, representing 159 countries and speaking 110 languages, has established LaGuardia as the ” The World’s Community College. ” The college provides a broad array of academic, workforce development, and continuing education programs to over 41,000 students. LaGuardia is located in the heart of western Queens. To learn about our exciting college, please go to

For more information, call Bill Freeland or Randy Fader-Smith at (718)482-5060