Kristin Hohman
Staff Writer

Lorain County Community College has started a new academic program called SAIL (Students Accelerating in Learning). SAIL is a three-year research study whose aim is to help students reach graduation in higher rates and at a quicker pace.

Based on the ASAP program founded at The City University of New York (CUNY) in 2007, SAIL is being further developed at LCCC as an academic plan and research study, according to SAIL Program Coordinator Matthew Mercado.

Mercado said the CUNY program saw great success.

“The students who weren’t in the program had a 23 percent graduation rate. The students who were in the program ended up at a 50 percent graduation rate within three years,” Mercado said.

As a result of its initial success, the study is now expanding, with three community colleges in Ohio being chosen to participate; LCCC, Cuyahoga Community College, and Cincinnati State Community College. CUNY is working alongside these post-secondary institutions in order to  oversee and develop the SAIL program to further success.

As research is a large portion of the program, SAIL and LCCC has partnered with MDRC, a national non-profit education research organization, as well as the Ohio Board of Regents. MDRC researchers will  track a student’s’ progress over the course of three years to make certain that success rates are as successful in Lorain County as they were in New York.

“We are actually researching it to find out if the results are equivalent,” Mercado

This spring marks the program’s first semester at LCCC, with a total of 70 students participating. SAIL has broken this group in half, with 35 students fully participating in the project and 35 students used for control purposes only. If a student is eligible, a computer randomly places them in either the study group or the control group.

In order to participate in the SAIL program, students are required to meet several qualifications including being a new student to campus or have completed fewer than 30 credit hours. Additionally, they must also be ‘college-ready’ or take developmental courses within one year of coming to campus. Only full-time students are able to be involved with the program, and only those seeking a degree, not a certificate, will be permitted. Finally, students must consent to be part of the research study as well.

As part of SAIL, students are assigned an academic advisor and must meet with them twice every month during their first year in the program. They are also required to meet with a career development specialist once per semester.

According to Mercado, tutoring is not required.

“As long as they maintain above a 2.0 GPA continuously, they will not be required to attend tutoring,” Mercado said. “It is recommended – and strongly encouraged, but it’s not required.”

All SAIL students must also attend a financial aid literacy workshop and maintain their financial aid during their time in the program.

For those eligible, the program offers many incentives, including Giant Eagle gift cards for each month they are enrolled, $300 textbook vouchers, and free summer classes. LCCC will also cover tuition that is not already covered by FAFSA or the Pell Grant for students registered in the program.

LCCC received a grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guarantee Corporation to fund the program for the three years.

Mercado said that SAIL plans to expand its study in the coming fall semester by enrolling 250 students.

The long-term hope for SAIL, Mercado said, is to see growing success over the next three years, which would culminate in LCCC implementing the program permanently. But for now, SAIL has three years to find the best way to see students off to graduation and post-education careers.

“I don’t feel like the program is a completed program,” Mercado said. “We want to get students’ feedback. We want to know what they think and how things are working for them to maybe change things.”

If interested in the SAIL program, contact Matt Mercado at mmercado@lorainccc.edu or 440-366-7320.