REDUCING STUDENTS’ COSTS FOR STUDYING PRE-CALCULUS MATHEMATICS
Fort Valley State University (FVSU) holds the distinction of being the only 1890 land-grant institution in the state of Georgia. One of Georgia’s three, historically black universities, FVSU provides instruction, research and extension services consistent with the institution’s liberal arts and land-grant traditions. Through formal and informal living/learning opportunities, the university fulfills the career aspirations of its nearly 2500 students. As it serves the state, nation and global communities, FVSU is committed to preparing students of diverse academic backgrounds for citizenship in a rapidly changing, technologically-oriented, 21st century society. Given recent downturns in the economy, increased numbers of freshmen are entering the University with less than adequate financial resources to meet the rising costs of textbooks, especially the high costs textbook and course management software resources required for pre-calculus courses. Accordingly, faculty and students are attributing the most recently noted rise in withdrawal and failure rates in the pre-calculus mathematics courses to students not being able to purchase the high cost of textbook and laboratory resources required for these courses.
To address this concern, Dr. Josephine Davis, Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, secured $ 29,000 from the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Affordable Learning Grant. Dr. Davis as Principal Investigator, Dr. Samuel Cartwright as the Co-Principal Investigator for this project and other members from the Department, Mrs. Bhavana Burell and Dr. Shadreck Chitsonga, constituted. the faculty-development team that redesigned the pre-calculus courses. College algebra is now a seamless, pre-requisite course for precalculus, consistent with other USG designs and with the recommendations of the Mathematics Association of America. Starting the 2016 Spring Semester, all students enrolled in college algebra and precalculus courses at FVSU were provided low-cost, e-textbooks and granted access to computer-aided instruction in laboratory settings at no extra cost.
It is anticipated that this Affordable Learning Grant will enable the Department to increase the rate of A – C grades earned by students in these traditional gatekeeping, precalculus courses. Such improved academic proficiency is expected to result in increased, overall retention and graduation rates at the University. More importantly, reducing students’ attrition rates in these precalculus courses will increase the number of students who are better prepared to pursue a STEM major – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, career fields in which minority students are severely underrepresented.