| 03.17.2018

Disqualifying freshmen — Faculty Senate votes on regulation to put first-year students on academic disqualification for earning less than 1.0 GPA


Four out of five University of Idaho students who earn below a 1.0 GPA in their first semester of college drop out of school or are placed on academic probation at the end of the following semester, said Andrew Brewick, director of university advising services.  
In an effort to alter this statistic, the Faculty Senate proposed a change to UI’s general catalog that would put students who earn less than a 1.0 GPA their first semester on academic disqualification.
“(Disqualification) sounds harsher than it really is,” Faculty Senate Chair Kenton Bird said. “Disqualification means that their registration for the next semester is cancelled, but they still have options to remain.”
Brewick said any student placed on first disqualification has the right to petition their college for immediate reinstatement.
Bird said several senators raised the issue of the narrow window of time between when students get their grades and when they would have to submit their petition.
“You would have to be right on top of when those fall semester grades are posted and then probably contact your college dean’s office immediately and submit that petition before the spring semester begins,” he said.
Brewick said students placed on first disqualification are encouraged to take a semester off to refocus. At the end of that semester, he said students are automatically reinstated on probation and allowed to register for classes.
The proposal is an extra layer to Regulation L, which already exists in the general catalog, Brewick said.
Currently, any student, regardless of their year in school, who earns a 2.0 GPA or below is placed on academic probation.
Academic probation immediately locks a student’s registration so they cannot change their schedule until they have the probation hold removed by their adviser, Brewick said.
“We use it as kind of a warning term, that you have fallen into an academic category that puts you in jeopardy of then moving onto first disqualification,” Brewick said.
If a student has a third semester of sub-2.0 work, Brewick said they are placed on second disqualification. He said a student would then have to go through their college appeals committee to be reinstated to the university.
Brewick said if a student does all of those things and is placed on third academic disqualification, they must go through the academic petitions committee to be reinstated.
This new regulation specifically targets first-year students after their first semester, Brewick said.
Bird said the proposal emerged from conversations between the dean of students’ office, the registrar’s office and university advising services.
Brewick said they looked at incoming student data and collected an exhaustive study of first-year student cohorts based on the Student Options Advising Retreat. SOAR is designed for first-year students who are on probation after their first semester. Brewick said it helps students who earn below a 2.0 GPA shape success strategies they can implement in the spring. SOAR is free and takes place the day before spring semester begins.
Brewick said there is a seemingly large difference between students who earn below a 1.0 GPA and those who earn between a 1.0 and 1.99. He said those in the 1.0 to 1.99 category often have more positive behavior, academic success and persistence.
This compelled them to have a data set generated and to actually start looking at the data, Brewick said.
“What we believe and what we know from national trends is that students who earn below a 1.0 often have motivational issues, so they simply don’t have a reason to be here,” he said. “Maybe they’re here because everyone else in their high school class was going to college or because one of their parents or guardians said ‘you’re going to be an engineer.'”
Brewick said those students also might have behavioral issues that lead them to be unsuccessful, or have experienced a tremendous and extraordinary circumstance in their first semester.
He said in some cases, students who fall under the sub-1.0 category openly admit they have no desire to be at school, but don’t see a better option elsewhere.
“Those are students who should be protected from the ability to make that kind of decision,” Brewick said. “We’re doing them a disservice by allowing them to stay here and accrue more financial aid debt and another term of unsatisfactory academic progress.”
Bird said the new regulation was pitched to the senate as a retention measure based on the number of students who persist from their first to second year.
The reason behind this is that first-year students are the most academically at risk of any student population, Brewick said, because the transition from high school to college can be difficult and some students don’t enter the university setting with clear goals and career motivations in mind.
He said the university has limited resource pools, so if it can identify a student population where 81 percent don’t persist into their sophomore year, it will stop devoting a tremendous amount of resources to that area.
Brewick said the regulation was not taken lightly.
“We have no interest in eliminating access to our high-quality academic programs for students,” he said. “It just seemed like a natural decision to create this program for students who have been least successful in that first term.”
Bird said the new regulation might challenge the university, specifically academic support staff.
“They’ll need to try and identify the students who are in trouble early on so that they can be referred to tutoring and academic assistance center, the counseling and testing center or to other support services so that they can salvage that first semester before they go below a 1.0,” he said.
The UI Faculty Senate voted unanimously in favor of the regulation. However, two more procedural steps must take place before it is set in stone. It will go to the university faculty meeting on April 30. Bird said if there is a quorum – the minimum number of members required to conduct business – then the faculty will have the chance to vote it up or down. If not, he said UI President M. Duane Nellis will decide whether it is an efficient retention strategy. If the proposal passes, it will go into effect fall 2013.
Britt Kiser can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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