Edward Fernandez

Despite promotion from Student Government, four new upper-division tutoring sessions at the Sanger Learning Center amounted to a small percentage of the center’s total upper-division tutoring in the fall semester.

Sanger Learning Center offers undergraduate students at the University five free tutoring hours per semester through scheduled or walk-in tutoring.

Student Government President Horacio Villarreal requested more upper-division courses be offered for tutoring after gathering statistics from the Office of the Registrar to identify large upper-division courses that showed disproportionately high failure and drop rates. 

Before this change, Sanger primarily provided tutoring for lower-division classes with high enrollments and six upper-division courses. 

“I’ve had some rough upper-division classes and friends that I’ve know have had trouble with those classes too,” Villarreal said. “I called Sanger and said these classes obviously need tutorials too.”

Four more courses were added after Villarreal proposed the change. Sanger program coordinator Edward Fernandez said Sanger already offered tutoring in Organic Chemistry and Matrices and Matrix Calculations, two of the courses in Villarreal’s proposal. Fernandez said more tutors were hired for those courses because of the information Villarreal gathered.

The four classes added to Sanger’s tutoring services were Foundations of Finance, Cell Biology, Introduction to Medical Microbiology and Microeconomic Theory.

“I think this is the first time we’ve changed regular course offerings, but it works into an existing system that was always designed to react to student needs,” said Michelle Jewell, director of the Sanger Learning Center.

Of the 1,963 students who enrolled in Microeconomic Theory from spring 2010 to fall 2012, 15 percent of students received a letter grade of “D,” “F” or dropped the course, according to Villarreal’s data. Fernandez said students came in for 62 Microeconomic Theory tutoring sessions during the fall 20l3 semester, making it the most popular of the new offerings. Only eight came in for tutoring in Cell Biology.

According to Fernandez, 141 of the new sessions were completed during the fall semester. This amounts to 10.2 percent of the Sanger center’s 1,389 upper-division tutoring offerings, which in turn made up 14.3 percent of all tutoring — upper- and lower-division — sessions.

“The fact that we’re helping a lot of students, and they’re continuing to use the service definitely shows that it was a successful initiative,” Villarreal said.

Fernandez said Sanger plans to continue to provide tutoring for the piloted courses. There are currently 180 tutors at Sanger, most of whom are undergraduate students who pass competence exams in their preferred subject.

“We anticipate that the number of completed sessions will increase as more students find out about this service,” Fernandez said.

Sanger’s appointment tutoring has a 90 percent satisfaction rate from student evaluation responses, according to Jewell. She said the upper-division classes would be reviewed at the end of the spring semester.

“At the end of every year, we review everything we’ve done to see how we can optimize providing services to students to help them master these core concepts and how our tutors can use these transferable skills,” Jewell said. “I can’t make any promises because there are a lot of factors, but it’s certainly on the table.”

Villarreal said there are no concrete plans to add additional courses.

“I wanted to give it a full semester to see how these courses did,” Villarreal said. “If they keep going the way they did last semester and how I predict they do this semester, I’d make a case for adding more courses to the list.”

Students collaborate during one on one calculus tutoring in the Sanger Learning Center inside Jester on Tuesday afternoon. The Sanger Learning Center provides five free tutoring sessions for students each semester.

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Despite Student Government’s support for upper-division tutoring and MCAT study sessions, Sanger Learning Center officials still maintain their primary focus on lower-division course help. 

After Public Health senior Junho Ahn proposed last month that the center offer MCAT study sessions, Sanger will host their first ever MCAT session on Thursday. Likewise, the center will begin offering upper-division tutoring on a trial basis this semester. SG passed legislation in support of upper-division tutoring and test prep courses from the center, and while the center will offer such programs this semester, their future at Sanger is not secure. 

Ahn said this class is a trial and that Edward Fernandez, the interim director and program coordinator for Sanger, is hesitant to commit to anything permanent.

“Right now we’re exploring this,” Fernandez said. “I view this more as responding to a small group tutoring request.”

Ahn said the key point of the study session will not be about teaching material on the exam, but about refreshing students’ minds and going over certain subjects that could show up on the test.

“I wanted to do something to help post-graduate students,” Ahn said. “So I invested a lot of time into [my proposal] and going into it I felt pretty confident. I received a lot of support from other representatives.”

Victoria Petruzzi, public health sophomore and member of SG, sponsored Ahn’s legislation.

“MCAT prep courses are expensive and time-consuming and if the Sanger Learning Center were to provide a sort of study group supplement, this could help students who especially want more personal, one-on-one tutoring in MCAT core subjects,” Petruzzi said. “With this trial, Sanger will be able to determine whether a program like this would be successful or not and therefore I believed this idea could potentially provide a great resource to all pre-med students at UT.”

Fernandez said the learning center’s mission is to academically support all students with the various services they provide.

“We are trying to empower students in regard to their learning skills as well as to assist them in the content in the courses they are taking,” Fernandez said. “There are many students who take advantage of the tutoring and the other services we provide.”