Whatever happened to: General College?

bailey.jpg In putting together a “Whatever Happened To” segment on Mark Yudof last week, I was reminded of the concerns about the closing of the University of Minnesota’s General College a few years ago.

General College, its supporters said, was necessary to achieving a racially diverse university. At the time, 48 percent of the General College consisted of students of color, while the university as a whole has only 13 percent students of color as undergrads.

That debate was raging three years ago today. Eventually, the university decided to eliminate the General College, considered a gateway to the university for students who didn’t quite meet the academic requirements of the university, and fold it into the College of Education.

So, whatever happened to those students?

I talked to Darlyne Bailey, who was appointed the dean of the new new College of Education and Human Development less than two years ago.

News Cut:: There was concern with the old General College about the low number of students who graduated; I think it was about a 40-percent six-year graduation rate. What has been the experience since the General College was rolled into the College of Education with the students who were there at the time?

Bailey: I’ve been here about 17 months. We haven’t had a whole lot of graduations to be able to talk about graduation rates, per se. But the old General College … was basically downsized as you know. And it transformed into a department — the Department of Post Secondary Teaching and Learning. It has been placed as the portal through which all of our first-year, new students will go.

Soon, they’ll be moving literally from Applebee into Burton Hall, which is where my office is, so we can have them on the “mother ship.” Students, when they first come into the college as first-year students, will go through and be touched by the PSTL faculty and staff in learning communities. We have a whole first-year student experience developed. So a lot of what the General College did in what, I think, was very fine teaching, has now been imported and customized into the new college.

News Cut: The Access to Success Program. How has that worked?

Bailey: Access to Success is the name that our college dubbed “the program” for students whose experiences and high school records showed that basically they would have strong potential. Their high school GPA, ACT, SAT test scores may not … reach the bar of students who would have been admitted to the old College of Education or any other colleges at the university, but as opposed to having them come to what was then General College or now just be entered into PSTL, Access to Success is the university’s way, courtesy of the college, of embracing these students — students who have fire in the belly, but whose academic accomplishments may not have shown that they can cut the mustard in coming to the University of Minnesota. So Access to Success has its birthplace in the new college, has its roots in our new college, but also going to be at the agriculture school and also in the College of Liberal Arts.

News Cut: So the students who might have attended General College, is this their pathway now?

Bailey: That’s one of them. We’ve also developed a new program I’m particularly excited about, bringing a little bit of New York here, I’m calling it UGo!. UGo! is a fully funded scholarship program that supports high potential students with financial needs, that typically come as first-generation college students, as I did, they come from underrepresented groups, as I am, and they receive financial, academic and basically socio-emotional support over four years, including any aid that closes gaps in tuition, funding, provides them with laptop computers and things like that. They’re also given peer mentors and faculty partners to work with to provide them with any of the ancillary supports they may need to succeed in the program.

The difference between the UGo! student and the Access to Success student is largely the financial piece, because I’m fundraising around it and trying to get in enough money to provide these students with the full academic experience so they don’t feel that they have to work. They don’t have to separate their time between a job and going to class. They can have the luxury of being a full-time student.

News Cut: One of the concerns in closing the General College was that the General College was made up significantly of students of color and that diversity would be lost when the General College as a standalone college ended.

Bailey: I don’t know the stats from General College, but I do know that the vast majority of students were students of color, and I can tell you that the profile of the students at the new college, are not 80 to 90 percent students of color. I know we’re not half, but I know we’re more than 10 percent.

What I can also promise you is people go where they feel comfortable and where they see “like.” Like attracts like. I saw this when I was at Case Western Reserve University and I saw this at Teachers College. After awhile, our being here — my being here — making sure that everyone understands that one of the core values of this college is embracing multiculturalism, which I define as not only focusing on issues around difference or diversity, but also applauding the things that we share or have in common. Folks will understand and start to apply and feel safe enough to come into this college.

Our numbers have gone up, but I don’t have those numbers at this time.

  • GregS

    I attended General College in the early 1970’s. It was a mistake. Few of my credits tranfered as required classes causing a long list of do overs.

    Of course the same problem existed for the Vo-tech system at that time.

    I find it odd that General College was seen as a step toward the U of M but the entire constellation of community colleges were not. The only thing that General College had was location.

    Why then was General College trumpeted so loudly?

  • GregS

    At the time, 48 percent of the General College consisted of students of color, while the university as a whole has only 13 percent students of color as undergrads.

    What about gender?

    Take a hard look at the race/gender stats of graduation. The nasty secret is the overwelming number of minority graduates are women.

  • MR

    The vast majority of college graduates are women, it’s not restricted to minorities.

  • Bob Collins

    You know, Greg, you bring up an interesting point. Part of the mission behind the concept of MnSCU was to make the community college credits more transferable from one school to the next. Experience of some lads I know suggest that hasn’t worked out

  • kathy willhoit

    I graduated from high school in 1969, my high school test scores were terrible. General college was a stepping stone for me. I was able to pick up my associate Arts degree and

    transfer to a smaller college. While in the General arts program my teachers were very helpful, the classes were smaller and more lndividual help was given. I could go to any teacher ,and they guided me.

    after leaving the u of m . I transfered to Bemidji university and majored

    in social sciences. My life then saw a move to Ca. I then

    picked up my teacher credenial, had it not been for the General College I might not have been a success today Today I’m

    retired after teaching 32 years.