EPC discusses credit deadline

Colin Morris

Policy may prevent drop-out students

Students who have not officially declared a major would be required to do so by the time they complete 45 credit hours under a new policy proposed at an Educational Policies Council meeting in September.

The office of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness has released data indicating that undeclared undergrads in their second and third years are at high risk of dropping out. The provost office’s policy aims to address the issue.

Sally Kandel, RPIE’s associate vice president, said half of the undeclared students leave the university in their second year.

“By 60 (credit) hours, they’re gone,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to find those students before they flock away.”

The policy would not apply to students in pre-majors, who, unlike general and exploratory majors, are on a degree path.

Kandel said an advising committee appointed by Provost Robert Frank on student advising developed the policy.

The 45-credit hour deadline is intended to direct students to use advising resources like the online Graduation Planning System, which recommends degree paths based on interests.

Under the policy, a student who has completed 45 credit hours without declaring a major would be required to meet with an adviser. The advisers, in turn, will have the power to override the policy in “exigent circumstances” that were unspecified in the proposal.

Some of the council’s faculty members expressed concern about the policy’s necessity and consequences.

Undergraduate Studies Dean Gary Padak noted the RPIE retention data used in the policy’s planning are from 2003 through 2005 and possibly outdated in light of this year’s spike in enrollment.

He said this fall’s retention rate of 73 percent is higher than past years, and the special cases that advisers would be able to override the policy would be more numerous than its language suggests.

Padak voted in favor of the policy, but not before suggesting that its language be strengthened. Rather than “students needing assistance . are encouraged to meet with an adviser,” he recommended, “.must meet with an adviser,” a change that was accepted by the council.

LuEtt Hanson, associate dean of the College of Communication and Information, had the most questions at the meeting about the policy, and specifically which students it would affect.

“Often policy comes to EPC just as policy,” she said in a later interview, “without procedures. I’m always interested in how that policy will be implemented.”

She asked what exactly would happen to students who complete 45 credit hours without choosing a major.

Kandel stressed that students would receive a series of e-mails before they were in danger of being asked to leave the university. Provost Frank interjected in answer to Hanson’s question that, “We’re not going to kick anyone out on FlashLine.”

Hanson’s questions were centered largely on the policy’s definition of a major because the policy’s language originally targeted students in pre-majors as well as general and exploratory majors. The inclusion of pre-majors was unpopular with several faculty council members, including Associate Professor of Marketing Paul Albanese.

Albanese said undergraduate students in the College of Business Administration are required to take introductory courses in a variety of subjects as business pre-majors in order to guide their choice of official major.

He estimated that, under the 45-credit-hour limit, those students would be flagged for emergency advising appointments even though they already have a direction in mind.

Pre-majors have since been excluded from the policy, which will be re-proposed at EPC’s October meeting. Hanson said that’s an improvement.

“I think that (excluding pre-majors) will help the administration of this policy,” she said. “I think the goal of this proposal is to help students who don’t have a direction yet. Pre-majors normally have chosen a path, but maybe (by 45 credit hours) they haven’t satisfied the requirements (of their college) yet.”

Contact faculty affairs reporter Colin Morris at [email protected].