1I1 Improving Current Processes and
Systems for Helping Students to Learn
Western continuously reviews and improves its processes and systems for helping students learn and develop. Many improvements result directly from implementing the goals and objectives in Western’s Strategic Plan (matrices at beginning of each Category).
In 2002 Western established an institutional Enrollment Management Committee. The committee meets monthly and discusses and proposes policy, communicates new admissions and retention
strategies, and evaluates the effectiveness of existing and new enrollment policies. This group has been vital in the development of a new comprehensive enrollment plan with two components: recruitment and retention.
As the institution moves to increase its recruitment of high achieving students, in combination with aggressive retention planning, graduation rates should be positively impacted. According to Noel-Levitz, attrition rates can be reduced by one-third in five years by aggressively improving the quality of student life and learning. In Fall 2006, all freshmen will live in the residence halls, unless living with their parents. This improvement advances goal four of the Strategic Plan under Academic
Affairs and Enrollment Management.
To encourage students to take the high school core prior to admission, in Fall 2005 Western began
offering financial aid of $250 (for each of two
semesters) to incoming students who have completed the high school core. This improvement also results from Strategic Plan Goal Four under
Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management.
The Office of Residential
Life, in conjunction with the Director of Academic Learning Communities, created Learning Communities for the 2005/06 academic year to provide students with co-curricular activities around their majors, and
created an Honors Floor with a faculty mentor. Learning communities allow students to have a more personal educational experience. Early monitoring indicates that Learning Community participants at Western have higher retention than non-participants, which indicates improvement in the quality of the first year.
In order to support improvement in student learning, Western hired a Director of Developmental Reading. Students with low reading comprehension abilities receive specific instruction in reading to enable them to become more successful in college and to help Western retain more students from the freshman year through graduation. Western research indicates that students who successfully completed the reading program showed a 20 percent improvement in pass rates in general education courses.
This improvement, and those described below, also bear directly on strategic goals for “determining the factors that lead to non-persistence of
Developmental coursework and general education courses form the foundation for success in students’ majors. Effective Fall 2004, students were required to enroll continuously in developmental coursework until satisfactorily completed. First-time students with enhanced ACT scores below 17 can enroll in only 14 credits the first semester. Restricting enrollment encourages students to focus on required developmental and general education courses.
Effective Fall 2006, the Griffon Gateway Program (GGP) is an improvement response to further encourage students to focus on developmental courses and general education. First-time students with an ACT composite score below 17, not having completed the Missouri high school core, ranking in the bottom half of their graduating class, and under age 21 will be restricted to enrolling in 11 credit hours of select courses, and will receive additional advising and monitoring.
Students who receive institutional scholarships from Western totaling more than $2,500 per
semester are required to live in a residence hall. National data indicate increased engagement,
success, and retention for students who live
Poor attendance in first- and second-year classes is a major predictor of student failure. Western is implementing a mandatory attendance policy starting Fall 2006, with full implementation by Fall 2007. Students who exceed the number of allowable absences will be administratively withdrawn from the course.
Beyond improvements that target under-prepared students, Western’s Strategic Plan has
guided the development of programs to enhance retention for high-ability
students as well. Applied Learning opportunities are particularly
useful to these
students because they challenge them to think beyond the classroom
walls. Western has already achieved its strategic goal of more
than 75 percent of its graduates having at least one applied learning
experience. Western has filled a position for a Director of Applied
Learning and a position for a Director of Study Away programs,
both of which will improve opportunities that address the breadth
of student needs at Western.