Developing relationships with other students is an important part of the STARS experience.

Starting as STARS

The Student Academic Retention and Success program (STARS) provides several benefits to students to increase the likelihood they will graduate on time, potentially saving thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.

New program aimed at helping ease college transition

This fall, Penn State Hazleton will launch a program designed to help students acclimate to life at college and ensure a successful transition.

The Student Academic Retention and Success program (STARS) is patterned after the successful Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS), which provides several benefits to students to increase the likelihood they will graduate on time, potentially saving thousands of dollars in tuition and fees. PaSSS students begin their Penn State experience as a group in the summer, taking classes together and building connections with fellow students, faculty and staff through mentoring opportunities.

While PaSSS is offered at several Penn State campuses, including Hazleton, STARS is unique to Penn State Hazleton.

“We wanted to take the benefits of PaSSS and mimic them for the fall semester,” said Tammy Spevak, learning center coordinator at Penn State Hazleton. “PaSSS students are recruited from a one-hour radius since the residence halls are not open in the summer, but STARS students can be from anywhere in the country. This also gives students who were working over the summer the ability to participate in such a program.”

Approximately 25 students are anticipated to take part in STARS and are invited from Pell grant-eligible, first-generation and/or underrepresented groups of college students as defined by the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee (EOPC).

Program activities begin the week before the fall semester officially starts, with STARS residential students moving in three days early. A special welcome dinner will be held for both on-campus and off-campus STARS students, who will also participate in several workshops and activities before Welcome Weekend.

“Right from the start, STARS students will begin to develop connections with fellow students, faculty and staff members,” Spevak said. “We believe the cohort aspect of this program will help contribute to its success, with students taking classes together and living in the same area of our residence halls. It is our hope that they will develop meaningful relationships with their fellow students, enhancing their Penn State Hazleton experience.”

The students will receive a stipend toward their books for the three courses they will take together and will go on two cultural field trips as a group. As a group, they will have a monthly lunch with each other and program leaders in order to build connections, assess progress toward their goals and identify any concerns.

They will take two three-credit classes together, in addition to a one-credit independent study course that focuses on study skills and preparation. The independent study will include workshops with faculty and staff on a variety of topics.

“Historically, Penn State’s commonwealth colleges have always had a higher population of EOPC students, yet lower first-year retention rates, lower six-year graduation rates and lower cumulative GPAs for those groups upon graduation. We want to do all we can to help those students succeed and have a better start,” Spevak said.

Director of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Wright said, “We believe STARS will help students perform better academically and socially and give them confidence during their first year of college. The support services they receive through this program and other services at Penn State Hazleton will be an essential part of helping them acclimate to college and thrive in their studies.”