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Free tutoring programs to expand at Syracuse University this spring

Courtesy of Steve Sartori

Syracuse University's new Center for Academic Achievement has been opened on the third floor of E.S. Bird Library, combining the SU Tutoring and Study Center and the Academic Integrity Office at one location.

Students seeking tutoring in high-DFW courses — classes that students commonly get a D in, fail or withdraw from — no longer need to pay for access to help through the Syracuse University Tutoring and Study Center.

The relocation of the tutoring center and the creation of the new Center for Academic Achievement are the first steps SU is taking to expand free undergraduate tutoring services after a recommendation from the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion. In the March 2016 report, the Workgroup suggested the university offer more free tutoring services “to support and retain undergraduates from marginalized and underrepresented groups.”

The CAA opened last week on the third floor of E.S. Bird Library, combining the TSC and the Academic Integrity Office in a centralized location. Free tutoring for several courses is expected to begin next week. It’s one of the several places on campus where students can go to receive help studying or with coursework.

In the coming months, the CAA will pilot a variety of free tutoring services, including one-stop shopping for students seeking academic support and group tutoring for introductory courses that students typically struggle in, said Margaret Usdansky, director of the CAA.

Three or four high-DFW courses will be chosen to pilot the free tutoring sessions based on feedback received via Orange SUccess, Usdansky added.

Free, small group tutoring for CHE 116: “General Chemistry,” ECN 203: “Economic Ideas and Issues” and PSY 205: “Foundations of Human Behavior” will begin next week, Usdansky said. In the future, the CAA will look at courses in which students often seek tutoring and work with SU schools and colleges to provide additional academic assistance.

The CAA will introduce free, hour-long workshops to teach students why certain study techniques are less reliable, including re-reading and heavy reliance on answer keys, she said. The CAA is also forming an advisory group comprised of students, faculty and center staff members that will collaborate to plan future academic assistance offerings.

“We want input from students and faculty as we move forward,” Usdansky said.

Free tutoring services are already offered to undergraduates through the Physics Clinic, Math Clinic and the Writing Center, as well as through academic assistance offices in some of SU’s colleges, according to the TSC’s website.

The TSC alone helped more than 800 students across 60 subject areas last fall, Usdansky said.

Most of the tutoring done through the TSC has been through one-on-one appointments, Usdansky added. Students have to pay for the one-on-one tutoring. While some students can have fees covered by their home college or by special grants, others pay out of pocket.

Usdansky also said the current plan is to continue with fee-based one-on-one tutoring while the CAA’s advisory group plans additional free academic assistance programs for future semesters.

The Writing Center, a free resource where students can meet for one-on-one consultations with a writing instructor in person or online, handled 1,272 students in 3,762 appointments last year, said Benjamin Erwin, the administrator of the Writing Center.

“The center is currently working near capacity in terms of the number of students we can feasibly serve in a given semester,” Erwin said. “My future plans include expanding our services and increasing the size of the staff in an effort to serve more SU students.”

In the spring 2016 semester, the majority of the Writing Center’s appointments were from non-native English speakers, according to data provided by the Writing Center. Erwin said the Writing Center has adapted to the demographic change by training writing consultants in linguistics, language acquisition and compositional theories focused on multilingual writing and learning.

“My goal is to ultimately help consultants become flexible and adaptable to a range of writing issues and student needs,” Erwin said.

Tutoring has also been relevant at other places on campus, including with Student Support Services. SSS is a grant program that provides financial literacy, tutorial assistance, academic support and professional development to 250 students with financial or academic need.

SSS runs in-house undergraduate tutoring groups for most first and second year courses, said SSS director Robert Wilson. SSS refers students to the TSC for smaller and upper division courses.

Wilson also said he believes that the high number of SSS students who seek tutoring contributes to the SSS program’s 94 percent retention rate and the high academic standing of its participants.

“The (SSS) students that engage in tutorial resources usually do at least a grade or half a grade level better in terms of their academic performance,” Wilson said. “From our point of view, tutoring definitely has a positive impact.”

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