In an effort to increase the number of students who stay and graduate from OSU Institute of Technology, a team of administrators and faculty has been assembled to take part in a four-year program conducted by the Higher Learning Commission.
The HLC is part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the accreditation agency for 19 states and more than 600 schools, including OSUIT.
Being an accredited institution means access to federal funds and recognized courses can transfer between colleges and universities, said Dr. Linda Avant, executive vice president.
This past summer, a new four-year academy was announced that would focus on student persistence and completion and once again OSUIT was one of 15 colleges and universities from the North Central Association, in fact the only from Oklahoma, selected to take part.
This isn’t the first time the university has taken part in an HLC academy studying issues affecting higher education.
About six years ago OSUIT participated in an HLC academy tackling assessment of student learning.
“We wanted to know what we could be doing on our campus to better our assessment process,” Avant said. “It paid off. In 2010, our assessment process was recognized as a strength.”
Now there’s a growing emphasis nationally on college completion with several programs, such as Reach Higher and Complete College America, offering assistance and incentives for people to finish earning their degree.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education even changed the funding formula so a percentage of funding is no longer based on enrollment increases, but instead on graduation rates.
“Compared to other institutions and community colleges, we have a better graduation rate, but it’s far from what we’re happy with,” Avant said. “By participating in the academy, we can learn best practices from other institutions and have access to materials we may not have access to otherwise.”
While well known for its high career placement rate among graduates, OSUIT has shown consistence with national trends among two-year institutions in degree completion.
OSUIT’s team for the academy is made up of Avant as well as Vice President of Student Services Ina Agnew; Vice President of Fiscal Services Jim Smith; Director of Institutional Research Michelle Canan; and Arts and Sciences instructors Melissa Dreyer and Susie Maudlin.
The OSUIT contingency will attend a three-day meeting in Chicago with the other participating schools as well as OSUIT’s mentor, an administrator from another technical institute, to go over the vast amounts of data collected about the OSUIT student body.
“We’ll try to determine why we are losing students the second year. Is it because of a financial situation? Does there need to be more emphasis on tutoring and academic assistance? Does there need to be services targeted toward women? Or a greater emphasis on mental health and counseling for veterans?” she said. “We’ll identify which groups of students we want to focus on and craft intervention strategies on how to retain second-year students.”
During the program the team will have ongoing discussions with their mentor and at the midway point all the participating colleges and universities will meet again to go over any progress that’s been made.
“We’ll talk about best practices, what’s working and what isn’t. At the two-year point we should see some progress,” Avant said. “We recognize it’s important and we’re doing something about it.”