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Reviewed by:
  • Improving Completion Rates Among Disadvantaged Students
  • Juan R. Guardia
Improving Completion Rates Among Disadvantaged Students Liz Thomas, Michael Cooper, and Jocey Quinn (Eds.) Stoke on Trent, U.K.: Trentham Books, 2003, 176 pages, $27.50 (softcover)

What are colleges and universities across the globe doing to assist disadvantaged students? What can be done to improve their retention and graduation rates in higher education? The answers to these and other related questions are found in Improving Completion Rates Among Disadvantaged Students. Editors Thomas, Cooper and Quinn gathered a group of 14 higher education professionals from around the world, including Mike Abramson, Helen Anderson, Margaret Andrews, John Benseman, David Coltman, Kay Gardner, Stephen J. Handel, Margaret Heagney, Alfred Herrera, Peter Jones, Patricia McLean, Judy Nicholl, Margaret Noble, and Vincent Tinto, who have substantial experience working with access, attrition and retention programs to contribute to this volume.

Although they all originate in countries dominated by the Anglo-Saxon culture, they have a general validity dealing as they do with central issues that have to be addressed if we are to come to terms with the problem of drop-out.

(p. xiii)

The book is organized into eight chapters. In the first, "Establishing Conditions for Student Success," Tinto describes four factors that contribute to student retention at colleges and universities in the United States (U.S.): (1) institutional commitment, (2) academic and social support, (3) involvement, and (4) learning. "Students are more likely to persist when they find themselves in settings that hold high expectations for their learning, provide needed academic and social support, and actively involve them with other students and faculty in learning" (p. 5). In addition, Tinto describes the importance of federal and state programs targeted at disadvantaged students and how institutions are being held accountable for student retention and graduation.

In chapter two, "The Implications of Globalisation for Supporting Students with a Disability: An Australian Perspective," McLean, Heagney, and Gardner introduce us to their work with students with disabilities in Australia. Many of Australia's universities employ Disability Liasion Officers who provide services for disabled students, including those planning to study abroad and international students with disabilities studying in Australia. We also learn about the culture clash experienced by international students with disabilities and how Australia's Federal Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 and the federal government's equity blueprint, A Fair Chance for All: Education That's Within Everyone's Reach, play an important role in Australian higher education.

Chapter three, "Access and Retention of Students from Educationally Disadvantaged Backgrounds: Insights from the University of California" provides readers with a U.S. perspective and describes how the University of California (UC) system addressed the issue of diversity on campus after Proposition 209 prohibited the use of race in admissions in state agencies. Handel and Herrera describe how UC created an Outreach Task Force (OTF) in charge of developing new ways of attracting disadvantaged students to UC [End Page 99] campuses. One of their initial findings included how "a significant number of underrepresented students attend a California Community College yet never transfer to a UC campus" (p. 38). The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) responded with the creation of the Centre for Community College Partnerships, which "develop academic partnerships among UCLA and community college faculty and administrators to increase the number of underrepresented students who apply and are admitted to the University of California" (p. 44). UCLA also offers the Summer Intensive Transfer Experience (SITE), a six-day academic program for educationally disadvantaged, low-income, first-generation, underrepresented community college students, which prepares them to transfer to a four-year institution (Handel & Herrera, 2003).

In chapter four, Andrews discusses "Access and Learner-centred Approaches to Teaching and Learning in Further and Higher Education." The chapter focuses on a qualitative study of students, teachers, and staff who participate in programs targeted at disadvantaged groups, including women, Black and ethnic minorities, and lower-socioeconomic groups at two further education colleges and two universities in London. Further education colleges are "voluntary and private training organizations usually at sub-degree levels" (p. 54) and higher education is referred to mainstream universities. Results found that further education colleges are more consistent in...


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