MWSU graduation and retention rates could be skewed–ADMITTED WITH CONDITIONS

By Brian Ramsay

February 18, 2013

According to Missouri Western’s standards and statistics, some students with a full course load are bound to fail. These same students are given a fair chance to prove to themselves and to the school that they can succeed through the Admitted With Conditions program provided here. “We know that certain students struggle,” psychology professor Brian Cronk said. “Not that they won’t eventually succeed but, if they came and took 18 hours, we’re kind of dooming them to failure.” Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanne Daffron said the AWC program pertains to students who have struggled in high school. These students could have had a low ACT score or had a fairly low GPA and were lower in the ranking scale during high school. “Those characteristics often result in difficulties of being successful in college, hence why we have this program.” Cronk believes this program helps students if they put in the work. “It’s not their fault that they went to a high school that sucked,” Cronk said. “So we will let them attend here part time and get caught up. If they prove themselves, then we will let them come back and be full time.” Director of Student Success Elaine Bryant thinks a lighter load will help these students succeed in college. “Our AWC students are required to take a lessened load just to get their foundation built,” Bryant said. “Get their reading skills, math skills, writing skills, study skills and their time management skills built upon for when they are facing their next level of classes.” There is a contract a potential student must sign with all kinds of expectations and rules they must follow in order to gain full time status. The details can be found at www.missouriwestern.edu/advising/awc.asp. All schools must submit success rate numbers to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. If the success rate for that school is not high enough or those numbers are not submitted by a certain date, then that school could lose some of the state or federal money it receives. “It’s a Department of Education that every school must submit official numbers to,” Cronk said. “If we don’t, we don’t get any federal money. That means no Pell Grants and no federally subsidized student loans. So basically we have to do it and use their definitions.” That dated definition is, in order for a student to be included in a cohort, they must be a full-time first-time degree-seeking student. Otherwise they will never be included in that cohort (i.e. that group of students who are full-time, first-time freshmen who end up graduating.) What this means is that the people in the AWC program will never be included in that cohort because they are not full-time students of 12 hours when they first enroll, regardless of if they succeed in school or drop out. Other types of numbers that do not count according to the Department of Education are transfer students or students who take more than six years to graduate if by chance they have to stop out for a family emergency, as well as many other things due to the strict definition set by the Department of Education. Dr. Gary Rice, associate vice provost of Institutional Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage, is looking to change the IPEDS definition with the Student Learning Progress Model. Approximately 20 schools across America with Western being one such school will be using the SLPM. This program measures different kinds of success. The ultimate goal is to look at situations such as if a student takes 20 years to graduate, if they transfer from somewhere else, if they take a two year break before coming back and even look at programs like AWC. All these numbers would ultimately count towards the IPEDS numbers if things work in the favor of Rice. Details can be viewed at www.studentlearningmodel.com. The AWC program does have a lower graduation rate of 6.45 percent over the last six years as compared to the FTFT six-year graduation rate that stands at 31.34 percent. If those numbers were combined, it would bring the graduation rate down, but there are all the other types of students that would hopefully bring that number right back up. “Honestly, there’s more than trying to get your IPEDS numbers up," Cronk said. "Too many schools try to gain the system, try to make themselves look really good in U.S. News and World Reports or make themselves look really good in IPEDS.” Cronk doesn’t necessarily believe in the numbers. “That’s not what were here for, were here to educate students. Let’s just pretend this makes our numbers worse. Who cares… really? It’s about, if you can take someone’s life and make it better, does it really matter if your number goes down a little bit?”