In the fall of 2015, Aiken Technical College will finalize a significant change for prospective students who need assistance on the front end.

During that time frame, ATC administrators plan to move to a revamped approach.

People who apply to ATC will take placement exams, which determine where they may have weaknesses in the core subjects of math and English.

Students who score below “cut scores” will move into developmental studies – pre-college classes before entering their area of college study, said Dr. Gemma Frock, ATC's vice president of education and training. The college has explored the new academic model and is moving toward its introduction next year.

“We're going from the developmental program to a transitional one,” Frock said. “We're going to transfer our program to transition these students for success.”

Jackie Giorgi, ATC's dean of teaching and learning excellence, said the new program will go through a smaller pilot program in the spring. Another part will be introduced in the summer before the full transition initiative begins in the fall in 2015.

“We are developing a program so that students will able to complete all these courses in one semester,” Giorgi said. “This is quite a change from what they've had before.”

Some students complete pretests that may show weakness in a specific area. Others have scores that indicate a need for a lot of additional assistance in math and the English components of reading, writing and reasoning. Under the existing structure, those with extensive needs could require as many as four semesters of classroom work before taking college courses in their area of interest.

“We're not going to rush them,” Giorgi said “We'll find out where they are and meet them there. Based on their tests scores and where they are struggling, we'll find out what that is and help them transition into the (college) program.”

Many students can arrive with issues beyond the campus and become discouraged, said Frock. The transitional program and instructors can help alleviate that.

Current programs already have been evolving in recent years – such as an academic success center that serves all students on campus. The services include tutoring for one student or small groups in specific content areas.

In conjunction with the new transitional program, the academic success center will introduce additional services – among them block-scheduling and online tutoring after the center closes. However, the college will expand its hours to accommodate more students.

“We're looking at our reading and writing classes to match the direction a student is moving in,” Giorgi said. “If he's going to be a welder, let's get him ready for what he'll read and problem-solve. We'll match our students to where they're headed in real life.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.