Colleges taking on city’s other dropout rate

Two years after a study showed that most Boston public school graduates who go on to college fail to earn diplomas, Massachusetts colleges and universities are mobilizing to try to keep students from dropping out.

Twenty-five schools are planning to implement new strategies – more scholarships, for example, and free summer sessions to ease the transition into college life – as part of Success Boston, a citywide initiative that aims to double the number of local students who earn degrees.

Keith Motley, the University of Massachusetts Boston chancellor who brought the schools together to analyze their dropout problems and coordinate solutions, said their plans were two years in the making.

“The academy is slow. We pontificate. We study,’’ Motley said. “Everybody has to have an opinion, and we all think for a very long time before we do things.’’

The 25 institutions – a wide swath including Boston College and Boston, Northeastern, and Tufts universities, as well as 13 other private colleges and eight state schools – started surveying their Boston public school graduates in 2009. They found that many students at state universities, community colleges, and less selective private schools are underprepared academically and struggling to find support.

Many of the students arrive on campus with little experience writing papers or with poor study habits. Some 75 percent of those at Bunker Hill Community College and 70 percent at Roxbury Community College need to take two to five remedial classes before they can start courses counting toward a diploma.

“What we’ve learned … is that we can’t even assume students who need help have the confidence to ask for it or the ability to use it well,’’ said Joan Becker, associate vice provost at UMass Boston and one of the authors of a new report on the problem, “Getting Through.’’

The report proposes strategies that could ease those burdens, from starting transitional classes while students are still in high school to teaching time-management skills once students are in college.

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