College Discovery Program Positively Impacts Graduation and Retention Rates through Financial, Tutoring & Counseling Help

  Update   •

Approximately 75 incoming Bronx Community College (BCC) first-year students participated in a two-week orientation for the College Discovery (CD) program. The program helps reduce barriers for students pursuing their degree and produces positive results when it comes to graduation and retention rates. 

College Discovery, which provides financial and academic support to students who show potential for success, is like the ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) program but has different eligibility criteria and is smaller in size. Students in CD at BCC can advance to a four-year college and continue to receive enhanced support.  

CD Program Director Cynthia Suarez-Espinal attributes the strong results of this decades-old program to the connections students make, the network of support they have and the guidance the program offers. Students, who enter the program in their first year at BCC, get personalized attention all the way through — including one-on-one advising (keeping their same advisor throughout the years); help navigating financial assistance; and tutoring in multiple subjects.  

Cynthia Suarez-Espinal“I’m living my dream supporting students in accomplishing their goals, just the way I received support,” said Ms. Suarez-Espinal, who was raised in the south Bronx and benefited from a HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) when she went to school. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support I received.”  

A recent BCC College Discovery graduate, Alania Gomez, Class of 2023, will serve as a part-time College Assistant for College Discovery this year while attending Lehman College. Ms. Gomez came from the Dominican Republic knowing no English only five years ago. She worked in a fast-food restaurant to help support her family for a year before coming to BCC.  

“I understand how immigrants feel when they arrive in the U.S. and do not know any English. It was tough,” Ms. Gomez said. “CD was a second family to me, and now I get to work for the program I went through. My purpose in CD and in life is to help people.”  

Ms. Gomez will assist students with scheduling appointments, remind them of events, and help them with financial eligibility. “I believe any student who wants to obtain an education from BCC can do so,” she said. “Students are afraid to ask, or they need someone to walk them through the process. I am here to help.” 

According to a recent two-year audit by the NYC Comptroller’s Office, the retention rate for students participating in BCC’s CD Program was more than 15 percent higher than it was for the general student population. Similarly, the graduation rate of the CD Program was 12.5 percentage points higher than it was for the general student body. The report’s Summary of Findings indicated that “Bronx Community College stood out as a clear outlier in improving graduation rates” as compared to other area College Discovery programs. 

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