I have had the pleasure of hearing about the Learning Effectiveness Program at the University of Denver twice in three months time: in August while checking things out for a client of my education consulting practice, and two weeks ago with fellow members of the College Consultants of CO group. Both times the source of information was Jimmie Smith, the quietly competent director of the program.
The LEP is located in impressive Ruffato Hall, also the home of the DU College of Education and the Office of Disability Services. Seated with all of us CCCers in a fourth floor conference room that featured breathtaking views of the mountains, Ms. Smith did a great job describing this well-conceived program that supports students who need help learning how to navigate the rigors of college.
While initially created for students with learning differences, the LEP isn’t strictly limited to students with a specific diagnosis. The program is fee-based, costing $1100 per quarter, or $3300 for a full year. For their fees, participating students receive in-depth, personalized academic counseling on a weekly basis from staff members who are student success specialists. Among the services provided by counselors are study strategies linked with the student’s identified learning style, time and organizational management assistance, referrals to the program’s stable of subject tutors as needed, and help managing academic crises (should they occur). At the start of a quarter one of the first things counselors do is to guide students in plotting out all the key dates from course syllabi into their calendars.
The LEP works closely with the Office of Disability Services, which handles the formal arrangement of accommodations for those with diagnosed learning disabilities. One of my favorite things about the program as described by Ms. Smith is its focus on student accountability and self-advocacy. Many students in the present generation would profit from this sort of coaching.
As a student success specialist during my days as a college administrator, my regret is that every school doesn’t have a LEP-type program that is free of charge to all students. While the cost of creating and sustaining such programs would undoubtedly be prohibitive, institutions might recoup some of the expense in a reduction of the average 30% freshmen attrition that plagues U.S. colleges. While the DU-LEP certainly isn’t cheap at $3300 per year, Smith did share that some scholarships are available to those in the program to help with fees.
The University of Denver isn’t the college or university in the U.S. with this type of program. Others that are well known include the University of Arizona SALT program, the Curry College PAL program, and the Muskingum University PLUS program. Additionally, there are numerous institutions that are known to offer more robust support for students than is typical through their disability services programs and learning centers. Depending on a particular student’s needs and strengths, reviewing the extent of learning support provided by a school makes sense in many cases.
Final notes: At DU seeking to affiliate with the LEP does not alter admission standards; all applicants compete on the same basis to get in. This is something that should be queried at each school with such a program. Enrollment in the LEP is at an all-time high this fall with some 250 participating students. My memory is that the caseload of counselors averages around 26.
Apologies to my CCC colleagues for the backlighting. When I adjusted for it we lost the mountains, and, well, the mountains won! The 2nd pic is of several of us (with our amiable guide John) on a campus tour of the remodeled DU library with the floating classroom in the background.