Student success programs discussed at Faculty Senate

Discussion of programs intended to promote student success at the University of Idaho were a central focus at the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Cher Hendricks, vice-provost for academic initiatives, gave a presentation on the two student success initiatives the university is currently involved in.

The first initiative, Momentum Pathways, is a program created by the Complete College America organization in 2009. UI became involved with the program four years ago. The second, Powered by Publics, was created by the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities just this year.

The University of Idaho plans to send a team of seven of eight individuals to Boise in January to work with Complete College America on creating a three-year plan for the university.

The Powered by Publics program groups similar universities together in the hopes they will be able to address issues more specific to those universities. UI is grouped in with nine other western land grant universities.

A group of representatives from UI attended a meeting for the Boise program in October. They created a plan to address the problems of making academic curriculums simpler for students to understand and to make improvements to advising. They hope to begin implementing this plan as soon as possible.

Hendricks said both programs provide data and strategies to universities nationwide to increase timely graduation rates and decrease the student achievement gap.

Timely graduation for these programs means receiving a bachelor’s degree in four years.

According to the Complete College America website currently, 81 percent of students don’t complete their bachelor’s degree in that time.

Hendricks said the achievement gap refers to differences in graduation rates across socio-economic and racial groups.

Faculty Sen. Raymond Dezzani expressed concern that attempts to close the achievement gap would result in forcing all groups to have similar graduation rates by inflating grades.

Faculty Senate Chairman, Aaron Johnson, offered his perspective on the achievement gap.

“The way I look at it is irrespective of the group they are in, some students come to us more prepared than others and some of them have a little bit of a leg up and some of them have been a little bit held up,” Johnson said.

Dezzani responded saying he doesn’t believe it should be the universities responsibility to respond to varying needs of incoming students.

Hendricks said she doesn’t see it that way.

“We aren’t lowing any standards we are increasing the help we give to students,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks added that retention rate variation across racial groups is significant at the University of Idaho and she hopes by using these programs that issue and problems with students not graduating within four years will be addressed.

Gavin Green can be reached at gree5069@vandals.uidaho.edu or on Twitter @gavingreenphoto.

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