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A new learning experience

Students studying science in the tutoring lab. Photo credit: Ahmed Al-Sakkaf

By | Ahmed Al-Sakkaf

No more paying for individual tutoring or hiding away in dark basements. Tutoring is now free for all students.

The HSU Learning Center opened its brand new tutoring hub on the ground floor of the library. Su Karl, Learning Center Director, said the new facility cost $100,000 to build.

The hub was funded mainly by a $4 million grant by the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) STEM grant, which was awarded to HSU last year by the U.S. Department of Education.

“The new space is a lot more spacious and inviting. It was made possible by the HSI STEM grant,” Karl said. “That grant allowed us to build that up.”

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Students working on computers in the library Photo credit: Ahmed Al-Sakkaf

Angelica Huerta is a Chemistry major and is a tutor for Chemistry, Math, and Physics. She is one of many students who like the new facility.

“Now I like it way better than last year it was in the basement,” Huerta said. “It was all weird and lonely.”

Mia Arnold and Katy Davidson, both majoring in biology, are also happy with the new location and setup of the tutoring center.

“Now it’s accessible and you can see it,” Arnold said. “Downstairs, it was dark and confusing it was like a maze.”

“It’s a solid setup, I like how it’s more open and you don’t have to go to the basement,” Davidson said.

Also thanks to the grant money, the Learning Center started this year with a budget increase of around $12,000. All tutoring services for about 50 subjects including individual tutoring are now free. Last year, students had to pay for tutoring or find their own groups

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Finding a small group was difficult for some students, Karl said. Some students schedules didn’t fit with others and some students were shy of reaching out to other students, she said.

“That just didn’t seem fair, it didn’t seem right,” Karl said. “There were too many hoops for students to jump through.”

Huerta thinks the fact that all these roadblocks stopped a lot of students from getting tutoring.

The Learning Center opened in 1998 and was located in house 71, then moved to the library basement in 2009. Though all tutoring services were transferred to the library ground floor, few staff offices remain in the basement.

In the past tutors had little or no training and were also hired or laid off based on demand. Karl said in the past they would hire many tutors, many of them were getting very few hours and it didn’t make sense to train them.

“Some of them didn’t get the very best training because we didn’t have the funds to train them well,” Karl said. “The grant allowed us to increase training for our tutors.”

This year, the center employed 85 tutors, compared to 110 tutors last year. All tutors are a part of the California State University Employees Union – Unit 11.

“We’ve been trying to be more systematic about not just having quantity in terms of tutors, but having tutors who are well-trained who have enough hours,” said Karl.

Although the Math, Science and General tutoring labs fall under the umbrella of the Learning Center. In the past, they were located in different locations throughout the library. The Math tutoring lab was on the second floor of the library while the other tutoring was in the basement.

“The Math tutoring was all the way up on the second floor of the library, not a lot of people knew about the Math tutoring lab,” Davidson said. “It was also a smaller more confined space.”

Now they’re all situated in the same area, making tutoring more accessible for students. The new tutoring hub has become a one-stop-shop for tutoring.

“It’s much more helpful and easier to have the two places together,” Huerta said.

The HSI grant which helped fund the Learning Center’s expansion and reforms were awarded to HSU and divided over five years.

Though the improvements made are great, they aren’t sustainable over the long term. HSU is only receiving the HSI grant for a five-year period. When asked what will happen after five years, Karl said that’s up to the university or other grants.

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