gps

12:32 p.m., April 8, 2013

Error... Reboot academic navigation

The online PDF class schedule and the printed class schedule are like the GPS to college graduation for students. These tools should make student success easy and organized. However, every time Laramie County Community College students think they are coming closer to their desired goal, they find the GPS has steered them in the wrong direction. And they must recalculate.

The fault cannot be found with the students, however, because they have been handed a GPS with outdated software by the very people whose job it is to help them reach their destination.

Before LCCC students register for the summer semester, they urgently need to educate themselves about the reduced class offerings and meet with an academic adviser.

According to the Feb. 8 College Council minutes, “The offering of some 1,200 sections per semester may be reduced by less than 10 percent,” referring to fall and spring semesters.

However, Wingspan has found much higher cuts already to the summer course offerings with little to no communication to the students and faculty.

We counted 36 classes had been cut from the summer offerings that were listed in the available printed class schedule and its corresponding PDF version online. That is an 18 percent cut.

If students were hoping to navigate around these changes, then good luck because the printed class schedule on campus and the online PDF version do not reflect these detours. Students will not find out which classes have been canceled until they register online or in person.

Recalculating….

The next logical step would be to talk to an academic adviser, but unfortunately, advisers have the same faulty schedule, leaving students driving aimlessly, looking for an open road, er…an open course.

Albany County Campus students will find 10 of the 42 summer classes cut, which is nearly 24 percent. For example, students needing computer applications courses might want to reprogram their academic plan because three of four of these classes have been canceled. Any student interested in art courses must come to the Cheyenne campus for anything other than “Beginning Drawing.”

Take a left turn here….

Of the 101 classes offered at the three campuses in Laramie County, 26 have been cut from the schedule, a 26 percent reduction. Seven of 56 online classes have been cut, a 12 percent cut. Some students wait to take their physical education classes until summer. This year, five classes were cut from the PE activity offerings, including the only two sections of beginning golf, an almost exclusively summer sport.

Any way Wingspan looks at these numbers, the proposed “less than 10 percent” cut of class offerings has been surpassed.

Merge ahead….

LCCC President Dr. Joe Schaffer said the cuts have been made to align the class schedule with the sequence in the course catalog and to address declining enrollment.

“One of the fundamental things that we have been doing is looking at how students navigate a program and succeed in a program, and how we can most efficiently utilize the resources we have to deliver programs,” Schaffer said. “This has made it necessary that we take a really strong look at our curricular offerings.”

During the past years the curriculum had grown with increased enrollment. For the last three semesters, the curriculum has been rolled over without being looked at, Schaffer said.

The administration has been analyzing historical enrollment for all courses and decided to cut those with low enrollment, Dr. Jose Fierro, LCCC’s new vice president of academic affairs, said. However, these 36 courses have been cut before students could register.

Schaffer said the reason behind the cuts is the college is being more proactive and ensuring students can finish their degrees in a timely manner without becoming derailed or delayed.

Fierro added, “The overall idea is to increase our student graduation rates. As leaders around the nation have shown, scheduling more strategically gives students a better chance to navigate their programs and have more of them graduate.”

We at Wingspan simply cannot see how removing roads to graduation can improve completion rates.

Error….

“I would not advise students to be setting their academic plans with the campus based on what is published in the catalog,” Schaffer said. “They really need to do that by sitting down with an adviser or someone in student services.”

Make a U-turn now….

Further, Schaffer said, none of the summer classes canceled should affect any students’ course sequences published in the course catalog. Unfortunately, this assumes students enter college only in the fall semester and follow the course catalog exactly; required courses are never full, and all courses meet the new minimum enrollment requirement of 12 students to be offered, and, finally, students never fail a class.

Completion rates are the real driving force behind these changes. The success of community colleges is now being measured by administrators and lawmakers in terms of the ratio of students to graduates. In short, students interested only in knowledge and enrichment don’t fit into the state’s funding model for community colleges. The college has even ceased mailing printed versions of the class schedule to the community, citing cost savings as the reason, a move that could be contributing to lower enrollment, particularly nondegree seeking students.

Students put their trust in the college to guide them on the road to achieving their educational goals, but when this navigational system repeatedly fails, the college may find its students investing in a different GPS.

Wingspan urges students to take the wheel themselves to ensure they are on the right path. While finding classes and plotting the correct course, they should expect plenty of detours, unmarked road blocks and delays while administrators determine which way is north.

Hopefully, the college administration will realize they lost their way, and reboot the system to get us back on course. Hopefully, students won’t spend too much time sitting on the side of the road with a broken GPS.

Recalculating…


Summer schedule

Fall schedule

2013 - 2014 Catalog