Georgia Gwinnett College summer credit recovery program gives students second chance after year of COVID

Pic of student Michaela John

Junior biology major Michaela John works in class as part of GGC's Second Chance Summer program. 

The ripple effects of the COVID-19 lockdown are sure to be felt for years, if not decades, but Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) is launching a recovery program this summer to help smooth the waters for its students who may have suffered drops in grades because of the challenges caused by the pandemic.

Second Chance Summer invites students who, during the spring, summer and fall 2020 terms, failed or withdrew from select core classes to re-take that class in an environment that features smaller classes, faculty supported by additional professional development, student success interventions like tutoring and peer supplemental instruction, and scholarships.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we can do to remediate the obstacles presented to our students by the pandemic,” said program organizer Rachel Bowser, associate provost for strategic initiatives and professor of English. “This program came out of a number of us brainstorming how we might give them a hand up.”

Bowser said the DFW rate (D’s, F’s and withdraws) rose significantly during the pandemic, particularly in many first-year core classes. She attributes that to the extraordinary obstacles thrown into the paths of students making the transition from high school to college in the middle of a lockdown.

“Students who came from high school didn’t have a lot of support and infrastructure around them in making the transition to college,” she said. “It’s tough. My daughter just finished ninth grade – her first year of high school – in her bedroom. It’s not the way to do it. You are doing kind of the muscle memory of depression all year – where you’re never getting out of bed.”

Classes are being offered in three core subjects: Math, English and Information Technology and are running during the long summer session from May 24 to late July. Bowser said about 120 students from across multiple disciplines have chosen to participate.

“To say that I’m grateful for the Second Chance program is an understatement,” said Michaela John, a junior from Suwanee majoring in biology. “After COVID-19 hit, and we suddenly had no choice but to be in online school, it was a nightmare. I’d already been struggling with motivation and stress issues in the face of difficult classes like organic chemistry. Now, I was completely removed from any in-person aid.”

Without the structure in-person classes demanded, John fell apart and applied for and received a hardship withdrawal.

“I cried from sheer relief,” John said. “It felt like I finally had hope again. But, as I registered for my fall classes again, I still had that fear: What if the problem with my academic performance wasn’t COVID-19, but me?”

Taking such unique emotional tolls of the last year into account, Second Chance Summer is not only designed to give students a chance to replace disappointing grades, but to give them an inviting and accepting environment to do it in.

“It would be a real outlier situation typically to have a class that was made up of 100 percent retakes, so already it’s going to be different,” explained Bowser. “The classes are set up with the premise that we all understand that everybody needs a little bit of grace and compassion. It’s a very supportive atmosphere: Everybody is doing this again, it’s not something to be ashamed about, and it’s not insurmountable. It’s a blip.”

John became aware of the Second Chance Summer program at the perfect time, was eligible to take one of the core classes again and jumped at the opportunity.

“Not only have I been working to redeem my grades, but I’ve been able to redeem my confidence in my ability to do well. There’s no way I can describe how much that’s worth to me.”

Bowser and her team partnered with GGC’s Academic Enhancement Center to provide dedicated tutors in the classrooms, and with the financial aid and development team to arrange partial scholarships where possible.

“Second Chance Summer is a great example of what makes GGC special,” said Bowser. “I think this program is so in keeping with the mission and values of GGC, which are oriented around access and opportunity, and having a different kind of imagination about what’s possible.”

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