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Atlanta Metropolitan State College-2015--Financial Aid Interventions, -Tracking Student Success (DegreeWorks), -Early Alerts, -Financial Risk Alerts, -Program Maps

Year: 
2016

Goal 3: Provide proactive, intrusive academic advising to keep students on track to graduate 

How meeting this goal increases completion

The leading factors that delay student graduation are: (1) errors or lack of good choices in course selection, (2) changing  program of study resulting in loss of credits, thus extending time to graduation, (3) academic jeopardy, which places students on warning, probation or suspension, delaying completion or causing drop-outs, (4) Financial Aid problems linked to Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements, and (5) lack of early academic support, resulting in an increase in course attempts, earned/attempt credit hour ratio, and delay in completion. The following strategies address these barriers that reduce student progression, and ultimately graduation.

Strategy 1 - Reducing Errors in Course Selection: 

Matriculation - An “Advisor Registration Hold” was placed on each student’s academic account after acceptance and each semester, thus requiring students to receive proactive academic advising for their program of study / major before making course selections.  Faculty Advisors were encouraged to reach out to their advisees before early registration to encourage students to evaluate and consider their academic plans.  During the advisement period, students were encouraged to align their course selections with the approved program of study / major. 

Retention and Progression - Degree Works, a web-based advisement tool, combines degree requirements and the coursework a student has completed into an easy-to-read “real-time” worksheet that allows students to: (1) learn the degree requirements and courses needed for their program of study / major; (2) select the right courses for the next term; and (3) find out, before they change their program of study / major, how the courses completed meet the new program of study / major requirements.  In addition, Degree Works allows Faculty Advisors to enter notes, and it records a student’s degree completion plan for the student to access electronically at all times. DegreeWorks is used to evaluate degree progress for new students who entered Atlanta Metropolitan State College in fall 2012 or later and for continuing students who have a catalog term of fall 2012 or later.

Graduation - The Office of Academic Affairs developed proactive, intrusive and structured program maps for full-time and part-time students to keep them on track to degree completion without taking courses unnecessary for their program of study / major.  Milestone / critical path courses are identified as a guided pathway for each program of study / major to ensure students take the “right courses” at the “right time” in a specific sequential order for retention, academic progression and timely graduation. 

Strategy 2 - Reducing Major/Program of Study Changes:

A specified Divisional Faculty Advisor is assigned for each student according to his or her Program of Study / Major. This affords students the opportunity to develop a mentoring relationship with a representative of the College who is also associated with their professional academic goals. In FY2015, there were six hundred and fifty-four program of study / major changes by students of which forty-seven of those students changed their program of study / major more than once in an academic year.  The College’s First Year Experience office processes each major change but office members are not able to meet with each student due to limited staff.  One hundred and thirty-four students out of the total number of major changes received academic services from the College’s First Year Experience office because their program of study / major was undecided.  Furthermore, the process for a student to change his or her program of study / major was amended by the Office of Academic Affairs to include approval by the receiving academic division dean/department head in order to encourage students to make appropriate academic decisions.  This effort will allow the College to meet with all students who want to change their program of study / major instead of only meeting with undecided students.

Strategy 3 - Improving Academic Performance:

Students with GPA’s that drop below 2.00 are required to meet with a representative in the Center for First Year Experience and Academic Advising to develop an Academic Improvement Plan. Students are prescribed appropriate academic and student support services such as tutoring and counseling if indicated. Follow up meetings are mandated.  In addition, The Office of Academic Affairs has restructured the College’s Academic Support Center (now called the “Center for Academic Success”) services to directly align with the College’s Early Alert and First Year Experience programs so that once an Early Alert signal is triggered, students will receive immediate academic support, providing a wider array of support strategies, including supplementary learning, “real time” workshops that align with student-identified difficult class topics, and an increased academic support staff to include Peer Teachers to assist and expand more services to students. 

Strategy 4 - Sustaining SAP Requirements and Retaining Financial Aid Funding:

A SAP Registration Hold is placed on academic accounts for students who are not making Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) as defined by the Office of Financial Aid (overall GPA being less than 2.0 and/or completing fewer than 67% of their total attempted hours), thus requiring students to meet with a representative in the Center for First Year Experience and Academic Advising to develop an Academic Improvement Plan. Students are prescribed appropriate academic and student support services such as tutoring and counseling. Follow up meetings are mandated. 

Strategy 5 - Providing Early Academic Support for Students:

An Early Alert Student Referral Program has been implemented, which allows faculty to seek additional assistance for at-risk students when a threat to their success in a course is identified.  Early Alert is a process that provides students an opportunity to understand “early” if their academic performance is unsatisfactory.  The Office of Academic Affairs restructured the Early Alert Program by mandating that faculty members provide “early” graded assignments within the first three weeks of class. These early assignments help acculturate students to the value of “studying” course materials and attendance, especially with first-year students.  It is important to note that not all first-year students understand what is “expected” when matriculating.  In FY 2015, attendance issues represented fifty-four percent of the early alert referrals, followed by forty-five percent for late and missing assignments.  In addition, faculty members were provided with early alert “recommended” referral due dates to encourage “early” referrals.  Early alert referrals indicate if students have academic performance or attendance issues as well as raise a student’s awareness of his or her progress.  Prior to program restructuring, it was common for students to be unaware of or over-estimate their academic performance in classes, usually after the mid-term grading period.  After a referral has been submitted to the Center for First Year Experience and Academic Advising, students meet with a professional academic advisor, develop an Academic Improvement Plan, and are referred to the Center for Academic Success. The Center for Academic Success provides a wider array of support strategies, including supplementary learning, “real time” workshops that align with student-identified difficult class topics, and an increased academic support staff to included Peer Teachers to assist and expand more services to students.  Follow-up reports are provided to the referring course instructor for all early alert referrals. 

Impact

1500 Students, each semester

Needs/Challenges in Achieving the Completion Goal   

Proactive intrusive academic advising activities to address Goal 3 strategies are time consuming and require dedicated staff. While AMSC continues to grow its academic advising center and initiatives, the needs of students often outpace resources. AMSC uses a combination of Faculty Advisors, Professional Academic Advisors, and support Staff to advise and provide interventions for students.  Students in good academic standing receive advising from faculty who are experts in the discipline.   Professional Academic Advisors in the Center for First Year Experience and Academic Advising advise students who are in academic jeopardy (grade point average less than 2.0), and those who are considered “high-risk,” as identified through the AMSC Early Alert Program, Student Academic Progress (SAP) warning,  and other referral triggers on campus. Increasing the number of dedicated staff in the Center for First Year Experience and Academic Advising will reduce the professional academic advisor /student ratio and will allow increased individualized attention to student needs. Increasing or reallocating the College's limited resources to align students’ needs with optimal levels of support staff and resource allocation is a very challenging task.