What MSU-Moorhead's Corrick Center closure is about

After reading about the planned closure of Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Corrick Center for at-risk students — students who didn’t meet the university’s “automatic admission” standards — I talked to Denise Gorsline, dean of the University College.

I’ll try to follow up later on with a post that explores a new angle or two, but for now, here are a few of my impressions from our talk — things that didn’t seem obvious from what I’d read in some articles and memos. They are, in a sense, an explanation of the strategy behind the shift — a move that university leaders said they made to improve graduation rates and student success:

  1. It’s not about budget cuts. Gorsline said she didn’t expect to save any money through the closure, since faculty and staff will be reassigned. That said, it is about streamlining. With the Corrick Center on campus, there have been two layers of developmental (remedial) education: Corrick Center classes for the weakest students, as well as the developmental classes that other students took to address the occasional weakness in a given subject. Now all developmental classes will be handled under one system — and taught in their respective departments, Gorsline said. (The math department will teach math classes, the English department will teach English and lit, etc.) Finally, the Corrick resources will be redirected to the general developmental education program to benefit all students.
  2. It’s about a belief that the students will learn better if they’re integrated into the mainstream. For the first semester, Corrick Center students took classes only from Corrick faculty. That wasn’t the right approach, it seems. Gorsline said the task force took ideas from Crossing the Finish Line, a book that explores graduation rates at various public universities. One of its findings, she said, is that “integration into the main campus is the key. It’s not isolation.”
  3. It’s about a sink-or-swim approach. Yes, it sounds a little like tough love, Gorsline said. But the way the Corrick Center was set up — isolated learning with no grades or GPA — there was so much “cushioning” that when students did make the transition into regular courses they were not prepared for it. “If they had difficulty transitioning, (the Corrick Center) just postponed the issue,” she said. And that wasn’t ideal, considering the thousands of dollars in debt students were racking up in the process.