To help St. Petersburg College students finish what they start, SPC has developed a Student Life Plan Retention Policy and revised its Academic Standing Policy. The new policies define expectations for GPA and course progression and are helping students stay on track.
“We used to be about access, and now we are about success,” said Jesse Coraggio, Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, and Grants. “We were primarily worried about making education accessible, and while that is still our goal, we have moved to a model with initial expectations. We want students to be successful and finish what they start.”
To keep students from repeating failing patterns, the college revised its Academic Standing Policy to better align with Financial Aid’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy by adding a course completion component.
Previously, students could be in violation of SAP, lose their ability to receive financial aid and still be in “good standing” academically with the college. Now students must complete 67% of the courses they sign up for and maintain a 2.0 GPA.
For First-Time-in-College students, enrollment eligibility is also affected. For the most severe cases, students cannot sign up for more classes than they successfully complete in the previous term.
“Before, a student could sign up for 12 credits, drop half of them and come back and take 12 again the next semester,” said Matt Bowen, associate provost of the Clearwater Campus. “They’re repeating a pattern that isn’t working for them. So we’re forcing them to find what does.”
Clearly communicating expectations is a big part of that. Students find out in orientation what standards they have to meet.
“We’re asking more of them and setting the bar higher so they will perform at a higher level,” Bowen said. “And they are.”
Through the Student Life Plan, advisors can identify first-time-in-college students who initially struggle academically, as soon as the third week of classes, and direct them to services offered through the College Experience.
“The goal is to identify students who are not succeeding and force them into better habits,” said Nicholas Manias, associate professor of Ethics who helped craft the new policies. “Now they have to pay more attention to their academic path.”
Turns out, many students are stymied by outside obligations and stresses rather than the coursework itself.
“We’re finding the reasons they struggle are not academic, but life issues getting in their way,” Coraggio said. “If they drop a class, we’re now working with them directly, and we’re going to help them out.”
So far, officials have found that students now have a better understanding of the college’s academic expectations. And students under the new Student Life Plan Retention Policy have been more successful than in previous terms before the new policy was implemented.
Among first-time-in-college students who started Spring 2013
- 53 percent of FTIC remained on course
- 26 percent needed some intervention
- 21 percent needed restricted access to classes to stay on course