An ambitious change project aimed at improving FLC’s academic enterprise (aka a ‘Quality Initiative’) is a new requirement for reaffirmation of institutional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission. FLC is up for reaccreditation in 2015-16 so the focus of the QI was taken from items already in the college’s Strategic Plan (Action items 1.a.i-iii).
Excavating clear paths to on-time graduation will be a quality improvement. That said, the QI does not have a monopoly on quality improvement projects. There are many other groups outside of the QI working on improving the quality of the educational experience for our students.
Because of the short time line for implementation of the QI – three academic years – we will not be able to show improved four-year graduation rates for a specific cohort as evidence of the QI’s success. Therefore, the success of the QI from an accreditation perspective will be measured by the implementation of the activities designed to remove institutional obstacles and create institutional encouragements for four-year graduation. We will, of course, continue to monitor four year graduation rates after the end of the QI.
The HLC states on its website that the QI “is intended to allow institutions to take risks, aim high, and if so be it, learn from partial success or even failure.” For this reason, the primary evaluative criterion will be “the genuine effort of the institution.”
Following the principle of under-promise and over-deliver, we only committed to degree maps for these two groups of students for purposes of the QI. To truly serve our students, we must push on and develop degree maps for all of the major categories of students.
The development of four-year schedules of instruction is the linchpin activity of the QI as will be the most significant change in current institutional practice. We are pushing most of the QI activities out this year so we can work with administration, department chairs, and faculty over a two-year period on successfully implementing this activity.
Probably. At this time, we are developing a conceptual map for incentives. We will be studying the various options next semester.
All of us are responsible for articulating the institution’s/state’s perspective on four-year graduation to students and supporting them in staying on or getting back on track.
All students need to know that they must be enrolled in 15-18 credits per semester to graduate in four years, depending on their academic program and their prior credits. The student will decide whether to enroll at the recommended level or not. Practically speaking, students’ decisions about load will be driven by their financing. Currently, the federal government only requires students to be enrolled in 12 credits to receive full financial aid in the absence of any institutional policy that requires a higher credit load.
The student will decide whether to graduate on-time or not. What the QI seeks to do is to remove obstacles for students who do want to finish in four years. The QI activities will also make clearer for students the possible consequences of taking longer (e.g. courses may not be available, students may accumulate larger debt and/or exhaust certain sources of financing) so they are making truly informed decisions on this issue.
Dr. Beverly Chew, Coordinator of Degree Planning Resources and Professor of Psychology.