Lehman Receives $3.1 Million Grant to Ease ‘Sophomore Slump’

BRONX, N.Y. — Lehman College has been awarded a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund a new Sophomore Year Initiative designed to increase retention rates among undergraduates during their critical second year of college. Lehman was one of 19 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) across the country—and the only CUNY institution—to receive the Title V grant.

“This is a major boost to the College to help students succeed, attain higher GPAs, raise graduation rates and increase college success on every level,” said Vice President of Student Affairs José Magdaleno. He and Vice President of Enrollment Management Robert Troy are jointly coordinating implementation of the new program.

The grant will benefit all students by setting up an early warning system in which faculty will alert the College to struggling students. “The whole idea is to identify students who are having academic problems earlier in the process so they can get the help they need before it’s too late,” said Dr. Troy.

Although Lehman offers a wide range of academic support services for students, particularly for those experiencing difficulties, many students either do not know about these options or fail to take advantage of them. Under the system to be implemented, students who are doing poorly will be identified early in the semester and be mandated to seek the help they need before they end up on academic probation. As part of the program, Lehman will hire a project director, two additional academic advisors, and new counselors who will guide students in the Sophomore Year Initiative program.

Sophomore year might be the toughest in a college student’s academic career—hence the term “sophomore slump” that has confounded academics across the nation. At Lehman, where two-thirds of undergraduates transfer to the College from elsewhere, and most are first-generation college students whose families are often from other countries, students are particularly susceptible to this phenomenon.

But just as Lehman’s award-winning Freshman Year Initiative (FYI), enacted more than two decades ago, has increased retention rates for freshmen, hopes are high that this new program will do the same for sophomores, helping them transition into upperclassmen. In FYI, students are grouped for their first two semesters into small learning communities that take the same courses together as a group and are taught by faculty who collaborate on assignments and lesson plans.

The new proposal was prepared by Dr. Anne Rothstein, director of the Center for School/College Collaboratives at Lehman. It is her third successful application for Title V funding. Previous grants totaled $15 million and were used to create a comprehensive database to monitor student progress, as well as provide a supplemental instruction program that improved student success in “gateway” courses leading to specific majors.

The HSI program provides grants to make college more attainable for Hispanic students and allows institutions to enhance their academic offerings, program quality and institutional stability. The grants assist schools in furthering educational opportunities for students through faculty development, curriculum development, academic tutoring and mentoring, and other services. A Hispanic-Serving Institution is defined as an eligible institution of higher education that has at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of the application.

Media Contact: Joseph Tirella / 718-960-5746