Established in 2001, the KEY Center builds an infrastructure for success outside the classroom to help students succeed in a normal college class. The Key Center strives to diminish barriers to success in higher education that at-risk students -- low-income, first-generation, and students with disabilities -- face when they enter college. It does so through academic support of advising, counseling, professional and peer tutoring, and transfer assistance. Rather than offering support in silos, the KEY Center model is a one-stop shop for support services and resources. The Key Center also provides personal and professional development such as financial literacy education, mentoring, job shadowing opportunities, and exposure to cultural enrichment experiences. They serve 160 freshmen students per year (over 20% of incoming freshmen), with Victoria College’s average freshman class totaling 700 students.
The Key Center’s mission is to promote participation in postsecondary education by encouraging intellectual growth and social development. The program intends to retain its “at-risk students”, keep them in good academic standing, and transfer and/or graduate them to baccalaureate programs. To meet its mission of social development, rather than draw emphasis on the socioeconomic backgrounds of their students, the KEY Center instills a sense of importance and belonging by admitting and supporting them alongside peers with whom they can relate.
The KEY Center combines social and academic support to produce a successful pipeline of students. In every one of its program objectives set for the most recent funding cycle, the KEY Center exceeded its targets. This is important since improved retention increases the likelihood these students will graduate and enter baccalaureate programs after graduation.
· From Fall 2013 to Fall 2014, 78% (119/152) of KEY Center students persisted, compared to only 45% (1897/4242) of non-KEY students—a significant difference of 34%.
· A majority (72%) of its Hispanic students (62/86) persisted compared to only 47% (883/1887) of non-KEY Hispanic students at Victoria College. Hispanic Key students also persist at a higher rate than the Texas (52%) and US (53%) averages.
· In Fall 2014, the KEY Center helped its students maintain an average 2.68 GPA, well above the 2.0 required to be in good academic standing at Victoria College. Hispanics maintained their GPAs at an almost equivalent average of 2.57.
A survey is administered every semester to gather important qualitative reflections of students. For 2014’s Fall Semester 103 KEY students took the survey, and 97% (100) answered that they were “Very Satisfied” with the services they receive at the KEY Center. The K.E.Y. Center students have demonstrated higher retention rates than other Victoria College students. The Center is categorized by The Texas Higher Education Board (THECB) as a Best Practice Model for Success and Retention. The three-year average fall-to-spring retention rate for first-time-in-college Hispanic students at Victoria College is 73%; for first-time-in-college Hispanic students who were also K.E.Y. Center participants, the fall-to-spring retention rate is 76%. Further, in 2007-08, 36% of the graduates were Hispanic; in 2008-2009, 65% were Hispanic.