Lower frustration, boost graduation rates

Lower frustration, boost graduation rates

By Donald R Topliff on Thursday, May 12, 2016


Today’s students are more easily discouraged than those of previous generations. If they take a course or two they didn’t need, they may drop out. But even though they are less resilient, they’re more tech savvy and expect communication to be fairly instantaneous. Students don’t use email. They text you at 2 a.m. when they are studying to ask questions.

Managing those expectations can translate into frustration across the entire university. With high demand courses, we need to make sure we offer sufficient sections. But if we have, for example, 100 students (out of 8,500) that can’t get into one three-hour class one semester, that translates roughly into a $120,000 revenue loss for us. We might recapture it, but it’s delayed. And, it may force students to spend another semester at school. So it’s not just the class, it’s the $7,000 for tuition fees, living expenses, additional housing, etc. It’s huge. And it might be the reason they quit. Anything we can do to minimise that frustration helps encourage them to complete their education.

We decided to implement Ellucian Degree Works because we needed a solution that could help address challenges on multiple levels. We expect it to:

Help administrative departments:

  • Predict how many sections of any particular class we can offer
  • Determine how many students are in a specific program
  • Understand where students are in the process
  • Allocate faculty resources more efficiently
  • Determine which courses are offered on the same day at the same time and reduce conflict

Help students:

  • Understand easily what they need to graduate
  • Avoid taking unnecessary courses
  • Get into the right class at the right time

Help the institution:

  • Be as efficient as possible to maintain state funding
  • Help advisors do a better job of getting students enroled in the right class
  • Improve transfer articulation processes to avoid repeating coursework
  • Ensure students on athletic scholarships stay in compliance with NCAA regulations

We’re in the early stages of implementation, but we expect Ellucian Degree Works to provide us with the information we need to make better decisions and stay on track with a two-year schedule rotation. We don’t offer every class every year. With our upper division courses especially, when enrolment can be low, if we don’t have our students slotted correctly that course may not fill when it’s offered. So it’s really important to be able to offer the right course at the right time. School is expensive, we don’t want students to take courses they don’t need. When everyone has the same information to work with, it just makes it easier to plan.

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About the Author

Donald R. Topliff

Donald R. Topliff, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Angelo State University

A prolific researcher, Topliff has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers as well as six book chapters, is a member of several professional organisations, and has won multiple teaching and leadership awards.