Sanger Learning Center receives grant to extend free tutoring sessions

Eilish O'Sullivan

The Sanger Learning Center started offering unlimited free one-on-one tutoring sessions for all UT students in January, and so far this semester, appointments are up about 20 percent from this time last spring. 

The pilot program for the free tutoring was supposed to be a semester-long initiative, but after receiving a $25,000 grant from The Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation of 1992, it was extended through the fall of 2018.

“We want to remove any barriers to students getting academic support,” said Paige Schilt, interim director of the Sanger Learning Center. “We know that smart students seek help and make use of all the resources that are available to them and we just wanted to remove any barriers to students’ success that we could.”

In the past, the center offered only five to ten free sessions depending on the extent of a student’s financial need, and after that, each tutoring session cost an additional $14. The center offers help in 80 different courses across 16 disciplines.

“What we noticed was that, when we looked back at our usage patterns, the number of tutoring sessions that students were using tended to match up pretty evenly with the number of free sessions that we were offering,” Schilt said. “So, that was what gave us the idea to experiment (and) to see if we removed fees all together, (whether) students would make use of more tutoring.”

Robaa Al-Najar, a neuroscience and psychology junior and tutor at the center, said she has had students cut down on tutoring because they were not able to afford it.

“I remember one time, I was with a student and we agreed to meet the next week … and she was like, ‘I’ll accept the appointment, but it might be a few days because I’m waiting to get money put into my bank account in order to pay the fee,’” Al-Najar said. “That was, like, really heartbreaking.”

Undeclared freshman Cristian Sigala, who has used the center’s tutoring in the past, said he will be taking advantage of the unlimited sessions in the future.

“I think it’s very beneficial for students, especially because it might be a little daunting to go to office hours and ask your T.A. and your professor for help,” Sigala said. “So with unlimited credits, it makes it easy to come in and actually get some help.”