A year ago, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research indicated that Coppin State University has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. Addressing the issue, the university launched the Summer Academic Success Academy three weeks ago to nurture, retain and academically prepare incoming freshman.

According to the study “Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t),” only one in five Coppin students complete their courses on time, or finish at all.

“We should have more students graduating,” said Reginald Ross, vice president of enrollment management at Coppin. “Our role is to get them to understand the practical value of higher education. When it comes to minority students, we can’t afford not to do that. If we don’t do that then we will have failed.”

For the first time this summer, the university is requiring all conditionally-admitted freshman that test into a remedial course for the fall to attend SASA, a residential summer bridge program that will filter into the first phase of their first-year of college.

“We pull a lot of students from Baltimore City schools,” Ross said. “They’re not always prepared for the rigor of college. If we can get them prepared, I think we’ll see a positive impact in our student retention.”

The program is six weeks long, five days a week and is currently helping 174 students prepare for collegiate-level English and math, as well as building reading skills. In addition to learning appropriate test-taking strategies, the students will develop social, intellectual and emotional tactics necessary for successful integration into and matriculation throughout college.

“We look at it as an enrichment program,” Ross said. “The idea is to bring them in, get them use to the schedule and the pace, interacting with faculty and this environment.”

The “intense” SASA program engages students from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and consists of a daily morning assembly, classes, tutorials, college survival and cultural awareness workshops, and recreational and intellectual activities to acquaint students with campus leisure resources. Students are also assigned peer mentors to guide them through the program.

“Additionally, the program will serve as a jump point into the Freshmen Experience Program,” Ross said. “These programs are expected to have an immediate and significant positive impact on student persistence here at Coppin State.”

The enrichment program will be mandatory for all traditional incoming freshmen.

“We are excited and are ready to nurture these students and let them know that we want them to succeed, and we care and believe in them,” SASA Coordinator Juanita Gilliam said in a statement. “This will be a big component that will lead to the success of the program, and if these students get that this summer, then they will venture into Coppin believing in themselves and become motivated to succeed.”