Academic Sub-Committee Meets, Discusses Solutions for Retention & Graduation Rates Amid Reduced Revenues
BATON ROUGE – The third meeting of The Academic Sub-Committee of the LSU Transition Advisory Team was held on Friday, April 5, at the LSU AgCenter in Efferson Hall. The sub-committee is part of the LSU2015 process for the reorganization of LSU.
Among the speakers who addressed the sub-committee was Jeff Selingo, consultant, author and former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Selingo presented information about what universities like LSU are doing to reduce costs and increase revenue in these transformative times for higher education.
Selingo suggested that there’s no “silver bullet” solution for the problems that colleges and universities are facing as the modern student’s approach to higher education evolves.
“The future of higher education is not one size fits all, but an ecosystem that unbundles the current system to provide many more pathways to a degree,” he said, referencing hybrid courses that incorporate online portions in with classroom time, entirely online courses and “flipped classrooms” – in which instruction is delivered online while “homework” is moved into the classroom.
These courses can also present students with opportunities to move through course work faster, which can aid in student retention. Arizona State University, for example, has experimented with seven-and-a-half-week learning courses and other adaptive learning technologies that have helped retain students.
Selingo also used Georgia State University as an example of an institution working to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates, in the face of reduced state appropriations, by using data analytics.
“Think about how Netflix recommends movies based on what you have previously watched,” Selingo explained. “It is essentially the same way these advising systems work.”
Georgia State found seven markers of student success and filed it into a system to help students select classes and majors for which they have a better chance of success. When students meet with academic advisors, the system can look at the requirements needed for degree advancement, how the student has performed in other classes and suggest the best way to proceed.
“They do not tell the students not to take a course,” Selingo said. “It is just a recommendation. And they have found that nine out of 10 students take the recommendations and grades and graduation rates are going up. It also allows advisors to track students and identify problem courses.”
Kevin Cope, president of the Faculty Senate, expressed concern about faculty pay in a new online environment and Stacia Hayne, alumni professor in political science, discussed concern about the distribution of workload for the faculty with the addition of online courses.
The Sub-Committee also received a presentation on graduation and retention rates from LSU University Registrar Robert Doolos, Executive Director of the University College Paul Ivey and Director of Institutional Research Sandra Walker.
Doolos spoke of the success of LSU’s Comprehensive Academic Tracking System, or CATS, program, which monitors student academic progress and suggests the best path toward a desired degree. Ivey reviewed a list of 10 practices rated “very effective” in a survey of students at two-year public, four-year public and four-year private institutions, conducted by Noel-Levitz Inc.
Among some of the practices that were ubiquitous across the three types of institutions: programs designed specifically for first-year and at-risk students, academic support programs and services, honors programs for advanced students and opportunities for students to get practical experience in their intended major, such as internships and service-learning.
“No one office can be in charge of retention,” Doolos explained. “It is all of our jobs. We all have a stake in ensuring our students graduate. My job is to help students graduate, bottom line. If we all get that in our head, our graduation rates would improve if we did nothing else.”
The Academic Sub-Committee first met on Feb. 28 at LSU then on March 15 at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. This sub-committee is focusing on inter- and intra-campus innovation and collaboration, academic standards and the strategic deployment of academic programs and leveraging technology for learning. It is co-chaired by William Jenkins, interim president and chancellor of LSU, and Dr. Lester W. Johnson, professor and chief of surgery and director of Surgical Services at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.
Agendas for all LSU2015 sub-committee and task force group meetings can be found at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015/subcommittees_meeting_schedule.shtml. Meetings are streamed live via the Internet at www.lsu.edu/tat.