Julie Tam, NBCDFW.com
Less than 25 percent of Paul Quinn College students graduate within six years, but the school hopes hopes a new program will improve its graduation rate
College president Michael Sorrell started a program this year called the "First Two Years Experience" that begins before students even arrive on campus.
"We felt we could do a better job of helping our students remain engaged and progress through college at a normal pace," he said. "If a student had a positive experience out of the gate, then it makes them more inclined to engage in the academic experience and want to stay."
Students go through a six-week summer "bridge" program tailored to their specific needs.
They also meet with academic advisers who keep tabs on how they're doing in the classroom.
"It has been an awesome experience for me," said freshman Chasity Cuffee-Ward, who is the first person in her family to attend a four-year university. "I've gotten to be involved with the teachers. They help us. They tutor us. It made me realize it's not about partying. It's about studying."
The new core curriculum includes practical subjects such as personal finance and Mandarin Chinese. Students take their first-semester final exams after Christmas break, so they have two extra weeks to study. And before students graduate, they have to read 100 important literary works.
Sorrell said it is too early to tell if the retention rate will improve.
But Cuffee-Ward said she is determined to graduate in four years.