Students on government scholarships who are failing to make the grade will be required to take mandatory tutoring sessions on weekends in a new move to raise standards at the International College of the Cayman Islands.
Students with a Grade Point Average below 3.0 who refuse to take catch-up classes risk being kicked out of the college or reported to government’s scholarship secretariat. The college is also mandating a minimum of 85 percent attendance from its students.
ICCI president David Marshall said if the college turns a blind eye to government-funded students skipping class or refusing to make every effort to meet minimum academic standards, it would be “co-conspirators in a fraud.”
“We are really not helping anyone if we accept under-performing students on the government’s dime,” he said.
“To my mind, if government is giving you money to come to school and you are not coming to class or you are not doing everything you can to make the grade, it’s fraud.”
The college does not have the power to withdraw government funding for students. Mr. Marshall said all he could do was ensure the scholarship secretariat had accurate information about which students were not meeting academic or attendance standards.
“We are going to be much more aggressive in reporting to the ministry. Every week we will be sending them a report. Then it is up to the Scholarship Secretariat to decide.”
During the spring quarter, April 7 to June 19, 49 government scholarship students were enrolled at ICCI. Of those, 36 achieved the required GPA of 3.0, while 13 fell short.
Mr. Marshall said those statistics represent a marked improvement but are still well below the college’s aim of 90 percent of students on government scholarships making the mark.
“While we are very proud of the government scholarship students who are doing well, we are disappointed that our overall success rate is so low. To my mind, this is not the fault of those students, it is the college’s failure for not having systems in place to help these young people achieve and I take direct responsibility for that,” he added.
He said the college’s packed evening schedule means that extra tutoring would have to take place on the weekends. He said there would be specific workshops focused on areas of need for students in academic peril.
“It is not about punishing students; it is about being accountable to them and to the public, who are paying for their education.”
Students on government scholarships will also be asked to sign learning contracts and work with the director of student services on individual learning plans to boost academic performance.
Mr. Marshall, who was appointed as president in March, says he is intent on introducing rapid reform and improving the standard of graduates – even if it makes him unpopular.
One of his first moves was to switch the hours of support and administrative staff from a day shift to an evening schedule, so they would be on site at the same time as students.
“We lost a couple of staff members over that, but that made me popular with the students. They are now able to pull a transcript, pay bills, get academic advice when they are on site. We are an evening college. I couldn’t understand why our staff were not here at the same time as the students.”
His next move – to mandate a minimum attendance of 85 percent – made him less popular with students.
“We lost about 20 students over that. My message to the instructors was that if they are turning in transcripts and getting good grades, I will still overturn the grades if they are not coming to class.
“Education is collaborative. We need people to be in class. It is also about professionalism and preparing people for work. If you are not prepared to come to class, you are not going to graduate.
“I understand people have busy lives, we are not mad at them and we’re not saying they are bad people – just if they don’t have the time, then this is not the right time for them to come to this college.
“What am I supposed to do? Say that people were too busy to come to school and we gave them a degree anyway to be benevolent? No.”
He expects the latest move to mandate extra lessons for struggling students would likely make him even less popular on campus.
“Students who are on scholarships who don’t want to put the extra hours in to bring their grades up, the message is that ICCI is probably not the place for you.
“We have a responsibility to them and a responsibility to employers.
“We shouldn’t get credit for graduating students. Our benchmark is how many of our students got a job, how many got a promotion, how many got a pay rise?