Summer Bridge Programs: Supporting All Students.
by Kezar, Adrianna
HISTORY AND MISSION
Over the past thirty years, access to higher education has expanded
markedly. As in most historical times of expansion, remediation and support
programs grow to help new populations make the transition to college. Remediation
and support programs grew during the early 1800's when access expanded
to include more "common men" in higher education. These programs also grew
in the late 1800's when women and blacks entered higher education in larger
numbers. Furthermore, after the G.I. Bill and civil rights movement, support
programs were again reintroduced to help these new populations attend college.
Over the last thirty years, support programs' goals and mission continue
to expand in response to international students, non-English speakers,
and disabled students. One of the popular programs that emerged out of
these various waves of increased access was the summer bridge program.
Summer bridge programs are designed to provide assistance to individuals
entering college in the Fall. The focus of programs varies depending on
the specific program mission and goals. The main thrust of the programs
is to retain these new populations within higher education and to provide
them an equal footing with other students.
RANGE OF ACTIVITIES AND TYPES OF SUMMER BRIDGE PROGRAMS
Program activities range enormously. Some focus almost exclusively on
academic support such as writing, mathematics, and reading. Many contain
study skills such as time management, individual learning style, study
strategies, and expectations for college work. Since students in summer
bridge programs are often first generation college students, a section
on the goals of a liberal arts education or general education and discussions
about college life is included. Also, career counseling is found within
the majority of programs, assisting students in expanding their vocational
aspirations. Many programs are developing a parent involvement component,
since research indicates that parental influence is strongly related to
student success. Helping students to develop relationships on campus is
another goal; this is accomplished by introducing students to campus offices
and potential mentors. In addition, computer literacy is becoming a critical
issue within the programs. Journal writing and self-reflective activities
have also been identified in the research as important program components.
Many summer bridge programs also develop partnerships within the community
to enhance students' experiences. Some bridge programs include community
service opportunities so that students meet and are connected with organizations
within the area of the college. Others partner with businesses providing
future internships possibilities for students. Some programs, for example
the University of Missouri, St Louis, have established partnerships with
K-12 educators in order to help them in development and evaluation of summer
The populations served by programs vary greatly. Some programs are specifically
designed for target populations such as minority, low-income, disabled,
or first generation students. Programs are developed for students within
particular majors such as math and science. These summer bridge programs
tend to have a very different curriculum focused on introducing lab work,
understanding what it means to work in the science or math area, familiarizing
them with group and problem based learning, and developing mentoring relationships.
Other programs serve any student who does not pass an exam, serving more
of a remedial purpose. Yet, there are also programs specifically aimed
at gifted students, from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These
programs aim more on the transition to college and expectations rather
than study skills. Another unique type of program is for students in tech
prep high school curriculum. These bridge programs are often offered by
community colleges and help students who never aspired to attend college,
to enter and finish an associate's degree in a technical area.
Thus, the curricula vary greatly, depending on the population served
and goals. Many institutions offer more than one summer bridge program,
accommodating the unique needs of their student population. What should
become apparent is that individualization of the program to the campus
is critical. Conducting an audit of your own campus' needs is essential.
RESEARCH TO SUPPORT THE IMPORTANCE OF SUMMER BRIDGE PROGRAMS
There has been a significant body of research on first generation college
students, examining the factors that inhibit and enhance success. This
research consistently shows that some of the major barriers to success
include: 1) lack of self-confidence; 2) inappropriate expectations or knowledge
about college environment; 3) lack of connection to the college community
or external community; 4) lack of early validation within the college environment;
5) family members who do not understand the goals of college; and, 6) not
involving faculty in summer bridge programs and the transition process
(Terenzini, Rendon, Upcraft, Millar, Allison, Gregg, Jalomo, 1996).
BENEFITS FOR STUDENTS
Little empirical research of programs exist. Some initial studies illustrate
that students provide strong ratings for the social aspects of the program
such as mentoring, community development, and building self-confidence
(York & Stuart). The impact of academic components are rated lower
in some self-studies, most likely reflecting that significant progress
in academic support is quite difficult in a few weeks or months. This suggests
that programs need to be realistic about their goals. However, some programs'
students pass entrance exams they were unable to pass prior to the program
Studies examining retention and grade point average indicate that students
in support programs tend to perform better (GPA) than students who did
not receive the same type of support (Santa Rita & Bacote, 1996). Few
studies have control groups, thus these findings are not conclusive. Studies
also illustrate that programs are helpful to transition, but not necessarily
retention (York and Tross, 1994). Yet, the results are mixed with some
evaluations showing increased retention in successive years (Garcia, 1991).
Also, research typically examines one type of program, since programs vary,
making generalizations about impact quite difficult. One study examining
schools that are high producers of minority science and engineering degree
recipients discovered that a component of these colleges' and universities'
curriculum is summer bridge programs (Brazziel & Brazziel, 1995). High
producers include a range of institutions: Cornell University, University
of Oklahoma, University of California-Los Angeles, Arizona State University,
Morgan State University, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Hampton
MODEL PROGRAMS: INDIVIDUALIZING TO MEET TARGETED CAMPUS NEEDS
A few model programs are described to assist campuses in developing
innovative programs. Citations to articles about these programs are provided
in the references. The University of Wisconsin offers an ESL/Bilingual
Pre-collegiate Program for Southeast Asian refugee high school students.
One of the main components of the program is cultural storytelling to build
a bridge between self and the new academic setting. Peer counselors are
Southeast Asian, providing mentors and role models for students.
Community colleges offer many bridge programs and can be an important
sector for identifying models. One model is the Comprehensive Minority
SEM Program at Santa Fe Community College that aims at increasing minority
involvement and retention in the sciences. The program is extensive, moving
beyond the components typically offered (skills development, etc., already
mentioned), including support for tuition, books and fees; a faculty mentoring
program; an Hispanic organization on campus; specific tutorial labs for
students in their first year who complete the summer bridge program; and
placement in work study positions in the math department.
Another program designed by the Native American Preparatory School in
Rowe, New Mexico focuses more on character development through community
service, the arts, and athletics. The school blends Native American and
Western beliefs. The program focuses on writing fluency, communication
skills, critical thinking skills and computer literacy.
In general, model programs are individualized, have strong faculty support
and involvement, are tied to the institutional mission, have partnerships
with area K-12 schools, are supported by senior administration, use small
group collaborative learning, build community, and conduct student assessment
EVALUATION OF PROGRAMS
Program evaluation is important since many programs find that they are
missing a needed component. Since funds are always limited, it is critical
to determine the range of activities most important to your particular
campus. Although it would be nice to include parent involvement, mentoring,
community outreach, study skills, and academic support, it is usually not
possible to offer all activities and to all populations you want to serve.
In addition to range of activities offered and target population, programs
also should examine length of program, schedule, learning approaches used
(lecture versus small group learning), technology, involvement of different
members of campus and other issues important to program success.
Every program should begin by developing a mission statement and goals,
as these are the foundation on any evaluation. There is a very helpful
list of such standards for student support services offered by the CAS
Council for Academic Standards in Student Support Services. These standards
can be obtained from at the following website http://www.ksu.edu/nacada/Profres/
standard.htm. In addition, a helpful resource to conducting evaluations
was developed by Michael York and Stuart Tross in a paper they presented
at the Annual SUCCEED conference on the Improvement of Engineering Education.
Summer bridge programs will continue to be important as higher education
continues to expand, increasing access to more and different populations.
Bridge programs are also gaining support internationally as other parts
of the world expand their higher education systems. Many countries are
looking to the U.S. for models. With the federal government making it a
goal that all Americans have the opportunity to attend at least two years
of college, institutions need to support and nurture these important programs.
Brazziel, W. & Brazziel, M. (1995). The distinctives of producers
of minority science and engineering doctoral starts. Chagrin Falls, OH:
Chadbourne & Chadbourne, Inc.
Garcia, P. (1991). Summer bridge: improving retention rates for underprepared
students. Journal of Freshman Year Experience, 3(2), 91-105.
Native American Prepatory School (1994). ED 403 086
Pantano, J. (1994). Comprehensive Minority SEM Programs at Santa Fe
Community College. Paper presented at the Annual International Conference
of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development on Teaching
Excellence and Conference of Administrators in Austin Texas.
Santa-Rita, Emilio & Bacote, Joseph (1996). The benefits of college
discovery prefreshmen summer programs for minority and low income students.
ED 394 536
Terenzini, P,, Rendon, L., Upcraft, L., Millar, S., Allison, K., Gregg,
P., & Jalomo, R. (1996). The transition to college: Diverse students,
diverse stories. In F. Stage, G. Anya, J. Bean, D. Hossler, & G. Kuh,
ASHE Reader on college students: The evolving nature of research, pp54-79,
Needham Heights: Ginn Press.
Werner-Smith, Anne Marie & Smolin, Laura (1995, Summer/Fall). An
ESL/Bilingual Pre collegiate Program for Southeast Asian refugee high school
students. Bilingual research Journal, 19(3), 3-4.
York, M. & Tross, S. (1994). Evaluation of student retention programs:
An Essential component. Paper presented at Annual SUCCEED conference on
the Improvement of Engineering Education in Raleigh, NC.