Making Connections: New Students Bond in Freshman Learning Communities
Megan Riggs didnít know a soul when she arrived at Georgia State last fall. But that changed soon enough when the 18-year-old from Marietta, Ga., joined more than a thousand newcomers in the 2005 Freshmen Learning Communities program, geared to help students build relationships and achieve academic success.
Each community consists of 25 students who take classes together related to a common theme. There are communities in the arts, sciences, business, law and honors programs.
"I love Freshman Learning Communities because itís a networking system," says Riggs, who belongs to the global business and society community.
Georgia State initiated the program in 1999 in response to sagging freshman retention rates and low graduation rates for freshman classes. Colleges across the country have faced the same problem: Almost half of all college students donít graduate.
"The idea is to build a community atmosphere," says Nannette Commander, assistant vice president of undergraduate student recruitment and retention. "We wanted freshmen to connect not just with each other, but also to the faculty, the university and the Atlanta community."
Since its inception, the program has become increasingly popular with incoming freshmen. The first year had 11 communities with 275 students. The 2005 class had 45 communities to choose from and saw 1,125 freshmen sign up.
FLCs have delivered impressive results. An assessment found that freshmen in FLCs have higher first-year grade point averages and have higher graduation rates than non-FLC freshmen.
The programís success has gained attention as U.S. News and World Report has recognized Georgia Stateís FLCs the last three years for leading students to success. The learning communities also placed first in the University System of Georgia Board of Regentsí "Best Practices" awards.