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HLC’s Final Component: Quality Initiative

HLC’s Final Component: Quality Initiative

Story by Madi Bates, Graphic by Allie Hutto

Author: Hutto, Allie/Tuesday, December 10, 2013/Categories: Campus

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Fort Lewis College’s Quality Initiative, the final component in the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation, will be a degree tracking system to help students finish school in four years.

The degree tracking program is called U.Achieve Suite from College Source, which will be accessible through WebOPUS on April 1 for the 2013-2014 year’s academic catalog, said Beverly Chew, professor of psychology and team leader for the Quality Initiative.

“It’s no pun that it happens to be April Fools Day,” Chew said.

The push is to get the catalog ready for incoming freshman and transfer students. Several hour long training sessions will be held to get students using the program, she said. Additionally, five or six designated experts will be offering training periodically.

The team will then be working to get the previous two to three years’ catalogs as well, she said.

The program is replacing the WebCAPP tool in WebOPUS, Chew said. U.Achieve has a very user-friendly graphic interface that enables students to create a customized, semester by semester degree map using drag and drop technology.

The program can help flag prerequisites for classes and determine how many classes a student still needs to take, Chew said.

Finish in Four is a part of  a campus wide effort to help students graduate in four years, Chew said.

“Staying in school takes financial resources, so understanding when you can graduate is really important for students using debt financing for college,” Carol Smith, the associate vice president for Enrollment Management and cabinet liaison, said in an email.

Finish in Four is a program offered through the state, which allows students to sign a contract in which they pledge to finish their degree within four years, Chew said. When students does this, each department is required to offer the courses a student needs to follow their four year plan.

This four year graduation agreement is outlined in the Student Bill of Rights, which can be found under Academic Policies on the FLC website.

Interest in this program is at an all time high since a financial incentive was added to the program, Chew said. Now, students who enroll in Finish in Four receive a $500 per semester scholarship if they follow their plan each semester.

“Degree planning only works if we know when we are offering courses,” Chew said.

Provost Barbara Morris  is working with the deans of the schools to help the departments get a better handle on when they will be planning to regularly offer courses, Chew said.

“If you’re in a major where there are required courses but they’re offered on an irregular basis, it becomes really hard to put your schedule together,” she said.

A number of policies were implemented last year in an effort to remove some common barriers to graduation for students, including those pertaining to course withdraws and first week attendance policies, Chew said.

Students no longer need teacher permission to withdraw from a course, however they must withdraw by Oct. 25. Additionally, students may only have a maximum of three course withdrawals throughout their undergraduate career.

The goal of these policies and procedures is to help students through their degree programs more quickly, Chew said.

 

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