Peer mentoring is a scalable and cost-effective solution to improve the retention and graduation rates of at-risk and high-needs college students. We have supported two promising models operating on CUNY campuses, which are the best hope for most underserved NYC students to escape poverty by obtaining a college degree.
1. CUNY College Connect is a partnership between CUNY’s Office of Student Affairs, College Access: Research & Action (CARA), and select CUNY campuses that aims to establish the framework for a university-wide peer advising system that supports students through matriculation and the first year of college.
The program was piloted at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and City College of New York (CCNY), and with our support, expanded to two other CUNY campuses, Queens College, and Hunter College. Preliminary data from the first year of College Connect at CCNY demonstrates that even in its early stages of implementation, the program has a positive impact on matriculation and retention. CCNY students served by CUNY College Connect enrolled in the Fall semester at a rate 16.4 percentage points higher than the first-year class as a whole (91.5% compared to 75.1%).
2. BMCC’s Impact Peer Mentoring program recruits upperclassmen to serve as peer mentors for first-semester students. Mentors, who commit to at least one year in the program, are chosen through a rigorous selection process that includes demonstrated academic success, application, interview and group interviews, as well as submission of a video explaining how and why they will be a successful mentor. Mentors are trained on effective peer mentoring strategies and meet as a group monthly to share best practices, build skills and create learning outcomes on topics of interest. This high-touch program maintains a ratio of 3 to 4 mentees per mentor and requires weekly meetings with mentees as well as regular contact with mentees several times a week.
Assessments conducted by BMCC’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics shows that the IMPACT Peer Mentoring program produces consistently higher retention, credit accumulation, and graduation rates for mentors and mentees as compared with similarly situated students not affiliated with these programs: