Prerequisite Approach to Learning Assistance: Academic Preparatory Academies

The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column.

Learning assistance is offered at a separate academic preparatory academy. Such academic preparatory academies first appeared in the early to mid-1800s, when four-year colleges often felt the need to provide the equivalent of a high school education for potential college students because public education was not widely available in the United States. Public two-year institutions were yet to become available for most people. Although these academies required enrollment by students for a year or more, some modern-day preparatory academies are shorter length. Academic bridge programs for high school seniors prepare them over the summer to be more successful during fall at college. Bridge programs are often hosted by four-year institutions (ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, 2001). Research studies attest to the efficacy of such programs for improving students’ academic success. Research studies have documented positive outcomes, including higher college grades and higher rates of graduation (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005), stronger academic preparation and easier transition to college (Swail and Perna, 2002), and deeper connection with the college (McLure and Child, 1998).

Another factor favoring the effectiveness of these high school–college bridge programs is the seamless flow of the education experience for students. Analysis of the national grade-cohort longitudinal study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that college enrollment immediately following high school graduation increased college degree completion rates (Adelman, 2006). Maintaining academic focus by students continuing their education immediately increased the likelihood of their timely college graduation. A review of the professional literature revealed a successful case study of this approach by St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, New York), a four-year, independent institution. Academic Services ( provides traditional learning assistance services and hosts the summer academic preparatory academy. It focus on graduating high school seniors who share characteristics of TRIO students such as predominately first-generation college attendees, low family income, and other variables that place them at higher risk for attrition. Activities include developing academic skills and acculturating them to expectations for college. The summer period provides sufficient time to develop simultaneously their essential learning skills while enrolled in rigorous classes.   Modern incarnations of preparatory academies also include private commercial schools such as Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Systems. Public two-year colleges through their function of preparing students for successful transfer to senior institutions are another example.

The next blog posting will provide another of these approaches, remedial courses which are very different than "developmental" courses.