Student Success - Part Two

July 23, 2014

Dear Colleagues:

Last week I shared with you what universities are doing nationally to increase graduation rates. Today I write to describe what we are doing at Kent State to improve our freshman to sophomore retention rate, and our graduation rate.

From research and experiences nationally we know that academic policies play a key role in whether or not students finish their degrees, and how efficiently they do so. Often it is the unintended consequences of well-intentioned academic policies, many of them implemented years ago, which create bottlenecks and delays. To address such issues last year I formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Policies and Student Success, which is comprised of faculty members, faculty senators, staff and administrators from appropriate offices.

Due to the good work of this committee the Faculty Senate passed several proposals to alter our policies. For example, starting this fall students assigned to remedial courses must enroll continuously in these courses each semester until they are completed or, in the case of mathematics, until they have completed their first credit bearing math course. In Fall 2015 we will reduce the period for adding a course without the instructor's permission from two weeks to one week, as our research demonstrates that students who were adding courses in the second week were failing or withdrawing from these courses at a rate of 50%. We reduced to 120 credits the requirement for graduation, provided students have met all major and college requirements. For students who test into advanced courses, upon completion of that course with a grade of C or higher the student may earn retroactive credit for earlier courses in the sequence provided the faculty in that department have voted to do so. Starting this fall all students through the junior year must receive academic advising each semester before they register for courses. Next year we will expand this requirement to seniors.

Given last year's successful pilot we will expand the use of our Pathfinder analytical tool to better inform academic advisors. Mining a decade of course data we can now determine which courses are the best markers for success or failure in a particular major, and can suggest a more appropriate major for a specific student in a specific academic situation. In an important change to academic advising, we have decided that professors who wish to continue such advising must complete required advising training which includes an overview of Pathfinder, and they must attend yearly advising update seminars. Doing so will ensure that professors engaged in academic advising are using Pathfinder and are up to date on the latest academic policies.

Of course, faculty can and should continue to engage in academic mentoring, even if they do not engage formally in academic advising. The latter leads to removing the registration hold until the student is advised, and the trained professor will have permission to remove this hold. Academic mentoring is not sufficient for removing the student's registration hold, but of course it does lead to valuable discussions about the student's scholarly and professional future, which is really the bedrock of what we do as professors.

During the upcoming year we will continue to look at other actions we can engage in to boost student success further. For example, we will explore the reporting of mid-term grades for all undergraduate students, with follow-up with struggling students. We also will consider ways to increase class attendance. Schools like us with dramatically higher graduation rates often employ meaningful approaches to enhance attendance, as attending class has been shown to boost student success. Finally, we will work with Dr. David Dees, Director of the Faculty Professional Development Center, to explore better ways to deliver content in large enrollment courses with high DFW rates.

As always, thank you for contributing to the success of our students, and to the success of Kent State University. While there is much that remains to be done, you have accomplished great things with our students, and I want you to know that I appreciate these efforts.


Todd A. Diacon, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

POSTED: Monday, June 23, 2014 12:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 12:00 PM
Todd A. Diacon