For undeclared majors, holds could come sooner

A policy change would let advisers place registration holds on students with fewer than 60 credits.

For undeclared majors, holds could come sooner

Dina Elrashidy

 

In an effort to improve four-year graduation rates, a proposal making its way through the University of Minnesota’s Faculty Senate would give more flexibility to advisers and departments to issue holds on registration.

It would, in certain cases, allow advisers to put a hold on students’ records with less than 60 credits completed if they haven’t yet declared a major. Currently, advisers can use the major declaration requirement hold only when students have completed 60 credits or more.

Advisers can issue other holds, which temporarily prevent students from registering, at any time.

The policy change has already gone through several committees and will take its final steps Thursday in the Policy Advisory Committee, after which it will either go to the President’s Policy Committee or straight to a 30-day public review process, after which it would go into effect.

The change is part of an effort to ensure students have graduation in mind, said Assistant Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Suzanne Bardouche. Advisers had discussed the idea for a while before bringing it to the Faculty Senate.

“Students can’t indefinitely keep taking random classes,” Bardouche said. “Students are admitted here to pursue a degree. … By a certain point, they should’ve developed a plan.”

Advisers would issue the hold on a case-by-case basis, like when students take classes unrelated to a specific pursuit or students with unfulfilled prerequisites for important sequential classes — a series of classes students must take in order to take courses in their major.

The policy would also allow advisers to approach students sooner if their grades aren’t up to par with standards for a particular major or school. Students would need to meet with advisers to make alternate plans, like considering other majors.

Being on track for graduation is especially important for College of Science and Engineering students.

CSE students have to go through a second admissions process into specific degree programs, said Amy Gunter,  director for academic advising for CSE. It’s important to make sure students are staying on the right track earlier.

Many CSE requirements are in sequences and have important prerequisites, she said. Students that aren’t planning ahead could fall behind before they hit the 60-credit mark.

Since certain CSE majors are very competitive to get into through the secondary admission process, it’s also important that students understand the requirements and expectations of those majors by meeting with advisors, she said.

“Our majors are very sequential,” Gunter said. “It’s really important to be on track to graduate for four years.”

For the College of Liberal Arts, only the journalism program requires secondary admissions.

Most majors in CLA are based on two-year programs, said Angela Bowlus, assistant director for academic advising for CLA. CSE programs are sometimes not two-year programs.

Because of that difference, Bowlus said using the major declaration requirement hold earlier than 60 credits will likely happen less often in CLA. But it gives advisers more flexibility to get students into their office to plan on a case-by-case basis.

The University has increased its emphasis overall on four-year graduation, Bardouche said.

“As we think about the cost of education for students, if students don’t have a plan it’s more expensive for them,” she said. “We’re asking students to be thoughtful.”

President Eric Kaler cited early and timely graduation as a major benefit of his proposal to look at converting the University to a year-round academic calendar with a full summer semester in his State of the University address March 1.

During the discussion on the major declaration policy change in the educational policy committee meeting Feb. 29, member Eva von Dassow said she objected to the University’s pressure to increase completion rates, according to the meeting minutes. Von Dassow didn’t object to the change but said she didn’t believe in using graduation metrics as an indication of education quality.

“I can understand where the school is coming from; the numbers need to match up,” said Kirsten Barta, a student representative on the Educational Policy Committee. “It’s also hard for students … there’s so much to choose from.”