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‘I keep coming back’: Miami’s increase in demand for learning services

Since 2018, the number of students affiliated with Miller Center has increased by more than 1000.
Since 2018, the number of students affiliated with Miller Center has increased by more than 1000.

Across Miami University’s campus, the Rinella Learning Center and the Miller Center for Student Disability Services have seen an increase in students walking through their doors. Individual tutoring sessions, supplemental instruction and test proctoring are just a few things offered by Rinella, and all services are open to everyone.

The two centers have worked hand-in-hand for years. Gary Ritz, the associate director of the Rinella Learning Center, said the partnership is twofold. Once a student has registered through the Miller Center and decides assistance is needed, they’re transferred to the Rinella Learning Center and paired with a learning specialist and/or academic coach. The second part of their relationship deals with testing accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

“We like to try to make sure that we're addressing [the] different needs of different students,” Ritz said.

According to a special report from December 2023’s University Senate, tutoring services and supplemental instruction usage have increased since 2015. From 2018-2023, the number of students affiliated with the Miller Center has increased from 2,000 to 3,100.

Ritz believes there are a few things pushing the numbers up.

Every new school year gains larger first-year classes, which causes the student population to grow, and Rinella with it. The incoming first-years, and sometimes sophomores, then take courses like biology, chemistry and statistics that often require the most help.

Ritz said Miami is also seeing those high school and middle school students whose education was affected by COVID-19.

“I think there's still some remnants of the pandemic and of the help-seeking that students kind of need, based off of maybe some lack of skills that they didn't develop in high school as much as what they had in the past at that point,” Ritz said.

He also pointed toward how recent classes are more open to seeking help.

“We're seeing that not just with our office, [but] if you talk to a counseling center, if you talk to other ones, students are a little bit more comfortable with asking for help when they need it,” Ritz said.

According to a report by the Rinella Center, in the 2022-2023 academic year, a combined 32,142 sessions were attended for tutoring and supplemental instruction. The main focus of growth is the ratio of students to visits. Last year's average was more than seven visits per student.

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“The service is quality enough that they're coming back, and they're coming back often at that point, and so that's what we're really noticing,” Ritz said. “[What] we want to focus on is making sure students feel comfortable with coming back on a regular basis.”

Photo by Jessica Monahan | The Miami Student
One of the benefits of the Rinella Learning Center is that it offers students free tutoring.

With this increased demand, the center has also taken on more tutors, now totaling 54.

Caroline Daggett, a senior biomedical engineering student at Miami, has been tutoring since the fall of her sophomore year, the year following COVID-19 when the campus was transitioning back to in-person classes.

“As a head tutor, we’ve been doing a really big initiative,” Daggett said, “to get tutors more involved and kind of make it more fun for them.”

Daggett believes that the center’s efforts to reach out to parents and students have led to the influx of students seeking academic assistance.

“I’m kind of glad people are taking advantage of something that’s literally free,” Daggett said.

As the Rinella Center transitions into next year, Daggett hopes to hire 15 new tutors to replace her and the other graduating seniors.

Keya La Baugh, a first-year psychology and pre-med major, has frequently used the center since classes began this spring. She gets tutored in statistics and chemistry.

“I love that it’s free,” La Baugh said. “That helps a lot. I love it. I keep coming back.”

La Baugh said it was easy to set up a weekly tutoring time at the beginning of the spring semester and had no further worries. She has used the tutoring center and supplemental instruction sessions this semester and plans to utilize the center next year for her organic chemistry course.

On the Rinella Center website, students can sign up for content-based academic support services and service-based options.