College Completion Summit 2019 – Panel 1

College Completion Summit Audio Recap
University Marketing & Communications
Supporting and Engaging the Student panel discussion

 

UMC:

This is an audio recap of the College Completion Summit hosted by the University of Utah and the Lumina Foundation.

On September 30 and October 1, 2019, the College Completion Summit brought together presidents and senior leaders from public universities that have significantly advanced their college completion rates.

Kim Wilcox, chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, leads a panel discussion titled “Supporting and Engaging the Student.”

 Kim Wilcox:

Now, people say you can’t raise your graduation rates 20 points in seven years. We did. People say you can’t increase your research funding $80 million in five years. We did. More importantly, we did it at the same time.

Now a lot of people said, what’s your secret sauce? We’ve decided these are the three pieces: culture, people, and programs. We tend to, in earnest, want to make programs to move things ahead, and that’s crucial. You have to have programs, you have to be focused, you have to do things. But the two prior pieces, the culture and the people we believe to be more important. Fundamental in a sense.

We have a culture and a tradition now that recruits other people to the culture. If you come to apply for a job, even the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Dean, Provost, Assistant Professor, we will interrogate you about your commitment to students. It’s just part of the deal. We don’t have to put it on the list of required stuff and check all the boxes. We want to make sure that you come with the same values that everybody else has. This is groundspeople, this is people in our food service, this is everybody has this same commitment to what we believe to be important.

UMC:

Here’s Carolyn Bassett, associate provost of student success at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Carolyn Bassett:

So, for instance, one of the programs that we do deliver at the university has to do with basic need support. And so that might be emergency funds, it could be emergency rent. It could be our senior completion program, helping students who are at the tail end of their requirements but at risk of not graduating. But, our dining services group came up with the idea that they were going to launch No Student Goes Hungry. So, here we are with our dining services colleagues fully invested in the student success model.

UMC:

Ann Bisantz, dean of undergraduate education at the University at Buffalo.

Ann Bisantz:

What was put into place in 2012 was a Finish in Four initiative. students engage directly in that program through a pledge that initially they took on pieces of paper when they entered the university with their parents at orientation or very early in the process. They pledge to do things like register on time, see an advisor, choose their major in a timely fashion, make sure that they’re following the curricular plan. And if they can’t get a course that is specified, they are supposed to let somebody know within a week of that registration window.

In the first year of the program, we added 10,000 seats in high demand courses. That’s a huge lift even for a campus of our size. If you want more kids in the seats, you’ve got to figure out where those seats are.

UMC:

Teri Longacre, vice provost and dean for undergraduate student success at the University of Houston.

Teri Longacre:

Students we learned were having very different advising experiences based on their college. Things were done very differently. Some colleges didn’t advise on Fridays. Crazy things like that, I’m sure you’ve experienced those things before.

Around the same time, we also started our own 15 to finish or finish in four program called UH in Four, doing almost exactly what my colleagues said. It was astounding to me how difficult it was to get four-year degree maps for every college. There was unexpected resistance, and I was told that this would kill our students. They couldn’t possibly take 15 hours a semester, 30 a year. They have and they are graduating at much higher rates so we didn’t kill them.

UMC:

Louis Hunt, senior vice provost of enrollment management at North Carolina State University.

Louis Hunt:

When we looked at our data, we found students weren’t leaving because they weren’t academically capable, they were leaving for a lot of other reasons. We had to figure out, how do we take care of the whole student, how do we identify problems that they might be having. In doing so, we took academic affairs and student affairs and we merged those together into a division of academic and student affairs. Difficult process and it worked out great. We are pretty far into that process; we’ve been doing it for quite a few years now.

UMC:

Michael Mardis, chief student affairs officer and vice provost for student affairs at the University of Louisville.

Michael Mardis:

We changed part of our student culture by really transforming the university from a commuter campus to a residential campus. We work with UPS, and we have what’s called the Metropolitan College Program. Any student who would like to come to the University of Louisville, who is a resident of the commonwealth can work at UPS and graduate from the University of Louisville debt free, while also having enough money in their pocket to be able to go out on a date or to do some other things, so they are not there and are just poor and can’t move or do any other things.

UMC:

Question from the audience.

Audience:

First of all, I want to thank you guys so much for spending time on the idea of inclusion, because I always try to remind myself, my friends and people that I work with that we are all here because of somebody who loves us.

I feel like there’s one gap that I heard nobody talk about, and I’m really worried about it. I know that 70% of undergraduate students are employed, 30% of undergraduate students are employed for over 30 hours a week. How can we engaged with these students who are essentially never on campus because there is a need to work?

UMC:

Comments from the audience.

Audience:

At the University of Hawaii, we started a five week course structured for our two year campus which has been hugely popular with our working adults especially. They can take one class at a time, five weeks and finish, and then take the next class.

Audience:

Last I’m a Graduate Assistant for the UB Curriculum Office, and last spring we piloted a program for our transfer students, which are often the non-traditional students. Single parents working full-time jobs. One of the things we found… we added mentors to those seminars. One of the things we found is those students have a hard time getting to campus because as it is just for classes, let alone extra things like office hours. So the mentors were made available before and after class, so that way they didn’t have to come seek us out for advising at other times during the week around their schedule.

UMC:

Question from the audience.

Audience:

What are some strategies proven effective to convince first year students to start thinking about graduating in four years?

UMC:

Ann Bisantz, University of Buffalo.

Ann Bisantz:

There is a university promise that if the students do everything they say they are going to do, or that we ask them to do, and the students don’t graduate in four years, the university is on the hook to pay for what the students weren’t able to complete.

UMC:

Question from the audience.

Audience:

I heard a couple times that the finish in four program seemed to be pretty contingent on finding a major in a timely manner. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to particular initiatives to help students find that in a timely manner so that they are not delayed.

UMC:

Carolyn Bassett, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Carolyn Bassett:

We have a one-hour college success type course for these students that are taught by faculty and staff across the university that’s really focused on helping students find a good fit major.

We have increased the rate of students successfully declaring majors after that first year, at the end of 30 hours. Those students are also eligible for our four year graduation program as long as they do stay on track.

UMC:

Wilcox summarizes his takeaways from the discussion.

Wilcox:

There are only so many things you can do to assist in student success. The challenge that we’re all working at are twofold, I think. One is to find the right program set or the right types of programs for our institution and the second is to scale it up. There are 784,000 students at the universities represented in this room, so a small mentoring program isn’t sufficient. It’s gotta be something that plays to scale. And that’s what we heard a lot about today, was how individual schools had taken programs and initiatives and tailored them to their own situations, but then thought about all of the students at the university.

UMC:

Thank you for listening. Find the audio recap of the next panel discussion, “Innovative Financial and Affordability Solutions,” and other summit proceedings at collegecompletion.utah.edu.

 

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