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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: Mia Ruiz, Cuesta College

Improve Student Motivation and Retention

The Challenge

The ESL program at Cuesta College has experienced increased course enrollments since our noncredit/credit programs merged in 2015, but student retention and persistence continue to be a challenge. ESL students in particular have more difficulties in terms of consistent attendance because many students have competing demands such as full-time jobs and families. In addition, all ESL classes on campus are at night, when many of the college offices are closed and services unavailable. The result is that ESL students lack a sense of connection to other college students and the college community. This lack of connection affects their motivation and ultimately commitment to the ESL course, program, and college.

The Solution

A team of part-time ESL faculty members met in the summer of 2018 in order to research and choose projects aimed to build a stronger sense of community for ESL students. The team decided on two projects for the 2018-2019 academic year. The first project was an ESL Newsletter that highlights program developments, profiles college staff, and shares successful student stories. The second project intended to integrate a more meaningful EL Civics curriculum throughout the various course levels of the program. The curriculum connected ESL students not only within the ESL program but also to students and staff in the wider college community. CAEP and BSI funding gave us the ability to pay part-time faculty for this work.


In fall 2018, as part of the EL Civics curriculum focusing on accessing health care, students learned about common health problems, local health services, and lifestyle choices through talks and demonstrations by a Nursing and Allied Health faculty member, Cuesta nursing students, a Health Educator from the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, and Continuing Education staff and fitness experts. ESL students from all levels attended the “Health Night” events, which were held on each of the three Cuesta College main locations including the North County Center, San Luis Obispo Campus, and South County Center. During this event, all levels of ESL students worked together to complete their EL Civics Portfolio.

The Data

ESL program enrollment is at capacity with the majority of students persisting by completing an ESL course and moving to the next level. Data is currently being generated to later report exact numbers of student retention and persistence rates and the improvement from program year 2017-2018.

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