By Ricardo Azziz | November 28, 2012
In the previous blog I reviewed a few facts that set the stage for our need to develop fair, effective, and efficient policies and procedures to address issues of higher education access, and also strived to identify the groups of students actually needing special or facilitated ‘access’ or assistance.
We concluded by identifying five types of students requiring particular assistance:
Those who are not academically ready to enter regular university…
Those who do not yet have all the required high school courses for admission…
Those for whom a regular university is not the right choice…
Those who are non-traditional students, and…
Those who now do not meet the minimum admission standards for a research university …
Today we will review the status and outcome of the first three groups of students, what many of us consider the traditional group of students requiring special consideration, assistance or facilitated access… Those who are not academically ready to enter regular university… those who do not yet have all the required high school courses for admission… and those for whom a regular university is not the right choice…
Firstly, students requiring special consideration clearly include those who simply are not academically ready to enter regular university. Many of these students have graduated from high school or have obtained a GED (high school equivalency) credential with major deficiencies in basic skills, including math, or writing or reading English.
How do universities know that deficiencies exist? Primarily through the use of admission (e.g. SAT or ACT) tests and the selective use of placement (e.g. COMPASS) exams. In fact, ASU recently began requiring parts of the COMPASS exam during the admission process for all applicants in order to best ensure the academic preparedness and optimum placement of entering students.1
As I noted in Part 1 of this blog, currently local applicants who do not meet the minimum entrance requirements2 for regular or even limited admission to ASU may be admitted to a specialized program called ‘University College’, whose primary mission is to provide access and support to these students. The program is 60 credit-hours in length (130-140 credit-hours are generally necessary to obtain a Bachelor’s degree), provides access to learning support as needed, and requires passing ASUO 1000, a study skills/orientation-to-college course and meeting with an academic advisor each semester. To be eligible for University College students must be a Georgia resident and live within a 50-mile radius of the university.
Secondly are those students who lack the full required high school coursework to be eligible for regular admission to a University System of Georgia (USG) institution, i.e. they lack the Required High School Curriculum (RHSC; previously called College Preparatory Curriculum or CPC) coursework.3 These students may even have good grade point averages (GPAs) and admission test scores, but lack one or more required high school courses to enter the university. One of the most common missing courses is a foreign languages class. Today those individuals are also admitted to the ASU University College, under the limited admission policy, and are provided the missing coursework. Only about 4% of all new freshman admissions to ASU in the fall of 2011 were RHSC-deficient students but without the critical deficiencies in English or Math that characterize students who are not academically ready for a university.
Who are these University College students who were not able to gain regular admission to ASU? Not necessarily who you think. Using fall 2011 figures, the ASU University College program enrolls a little over 500 students, or about 9% of the total ASU student body. Approximately 45% are under-represented minorities, a figure similar to the proportion of under-represented minorities in the university as a whole (36%). Forty percent of students reside in Columbia County and another 36% in Richmond County, with over 35% of the students coming from just four local high schools (Evans HS, Greenbrier HS, Lakeside HS-Evans, and Academy of Richmond County) from about 36 in the area.
And how well are we doing in providing SUCCESS to students that were unable to gain regular admission to ASU and were admitted to our University College? If we define success as providing students with a degree they can use in the marketplace… unfortunately not very well.
The six-year graduation rate in the six years of our current efforts to provide local ‘access’ to students who do not meet the entrance requirements for full or limited admission to a state university (much less a research university) was only 9.4% for students admitted between 2000 and 2005 (see graph below). The standard 4-year graduation rate is obviously even lower.
In fact, for those students enrolled in the ASU University College since 2000 only 50% were in good academic standing in their last term attended, with majority of the remainder on probation or suspension.
Surprisingly, even those University College students that were RHSC-deficient (i.e. were missing a high school course), but who were not deficient in critical math or English skills (by the COMPASS exam), also have very low graduation success rates, in the order of 0% at four years and 10-20% at six years, depending on whether they completed their missing coursework at ASU or not (see table below).
Notably, the graduation success rate for RHSC-deficient students who first completed their missing coursework elsewhere and then applied for admission to ASU was much higher (see table below). These are results that we should consider when deciding, as a new consolidated university whether to encourage the admission of RHSC-deficient students as new freshman vs. requiring them to complete their coursework elsewhere first and then apply for transfer to our university.
Graduation success of RHSC-deficient* students at ASU (Fall 2006 entering class)
Number(% of all new freshman)
Graduation within 4 years of admittance to ASU
Graduation within 6 years of admittance to ASU
|New Freshman, all RHSC-Deficient Students||
|New Freshman, required coursework satisfied at ASU||
|Transfer Freshman, required coursework satisfied at another institution||
*RHSC-deficient are those students who have not completed their Required High School Curriculum, but do not also demonstrate critical deficiencies in English and Math.
In part the low graduation success of these students may simply reflect a process of self-selection for student determination, fit and desire to obtain a college degree… However we should also consider what is the experience we currently provide these students in need. For example, University College students are generally placed in classes alongside regular admission students. And many University College students unfortunately do not even know that they are in the program… which makes it more difficult for them to self-identify a need for assistance. While this may be more cost-effective and may help encourage these students to do their best, it also has the potential of depressing the overall level of education in the classroom, as professors struggle to balance the needs of University College students with those in the regular track. And more importantly, it is likely to be disheartening to University College students, who have not yet developed the necessary skills to effectively compete with other students in the higher education arena.
Finally, we should note that completion of University College alone does not provide for a certificate or other validation of completion or preparedness. Rather, the successful completion of the University College program only allows the student to proceed onto the regular university education track. As 36% of University College students at ASU (2009 cohort) were retained through their second year, potentially offering an Associate degree to these individuals has the significant potential of providing them with a tool (other than the very important knowledge acquired in class) that may enhance their marketability and earning potential.
The third group of students who merit special consideration are those who should be provided access to higher education… but not necessarily to a university. In fact, many students often suffer the burden of insufficient career and academic counseling.
While it is estimated that 60% of jobs in 2020 will require a higher education degree, this does not necessarily mean a university degree is for everybody. Local students, particularly those not able to be accepted to university on the regular track, should carefully consider all their options, including attending one of our excellent Technical Colleges, a dedicated two-year college such as East Georgia State College, or a myriad of online certification programs, before assuming that admission to a university is their only option. In fact, the recent articulation agreement between the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and USG, whereby credits obtained in selected classes in either system will be accepted by the other system if the student transfers, will facilitate student transfer between systems, if desired.
This group of students also highlights the need for university admission counseling to be intimately linked with robust career counseling in continuous partnership with local High Schools (such as the current ‘Counselor Advisory Board’ program at ASU). Students should be directed to the higher education program that best fits with their desires, goals, and objectives at the time, understanding that, while not necessarily easy, it is possible for these individuals to continue and pursue a university education sometime in the futur
So what strategies can we consider to enhance the success of these three groups of students? A number of strategies come to mind, all of which (and others as well) are being actively vetted and considered at this time.
- We must work more closely with our local high schools to optimize pre-graduation student admission and career counseling, while establishing more robust mentoring and pipeline programs.
- We should encourage CPC-deficient students to complete their missing high school courses prior to be being accepted to the new university, possibly leveraging enhanced articulations with Augusta Tech and East Georgia State College.
- We should consider partnering with institutions such as East Georgia State College in establishing a local campus of the institution for the benefit of our local student population.
- We must create a more clearly defined University College-type program within the new university, with clear leadership, enhanced resources, and student accountability, while ensuring a greater degree of dedicated faculty effort, enhanced learning support, and careful attention to the retention, progression and graduation of each and every student in the program.
- We should consider offering a 2-year Associate Degree certificate for the completion of the University College program (60 credits).
- We need to streamline the transfer of students successfully completing the University College program into the regular university.
- We must increase the number of need-based scholarships, as a proportion of these students also suffer from limited financial resources .
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So far, we have considered the three groups of students who most of us recognize when discussing the need to ensure ‘access’, a cohort of students that account for only 8-10% of current students in ASU. Unfortunately, we also observed that currently over 90% of students not academically prepared for regular university and who are provided facilitated ‘access’ to ASU via University College fail at the endeavor. Not the results we all are striving for!…
Finally, we must always remember that providing access without success (usually defined as a marketable degree) is not only a waste of resources, it also severely dispirits the student and their families. Further, it reinforces the perception that higher education is beyond their skills and hope. Which only helps to cement the vicious cycle of… poor education — lower economics — higher crime — poorer health — lower life expectancy.
Stay tuned ‘til the next blog on this subject …. when we discuss the two remaining groups of students that need special consideration as we consolidate… including a group so large that it accounts for almost one-half of students currently enrolled at ASU! And what strategies we may need to consider to ensure access… and success…. to higher education for our local students.
1 ASU has recently begun using the COMPASS exam, a computer based placement test, as part of the admissions process. The COMPASS exam is required during the admission process at ASU, and consists of three sections: Math, Writing and Reading. Students who score a 500 or more on the SAT Critical Reading (ACT = 21 or higher on the Critical Reading) will be exempt from the reading and writing sections of the COMPASS exam. ALL students are required to complete the Math portion of the COMPASS as part of their admissions process so that they can be placed into the highest level math course appropriate for them. COMPASS differs from other placement tests in that it is computerized and adaptive, generating questions based upon the individual responses of the students taking the test. In other words, the number of questions given during a testing session is dependent upon the responses of the student testing. Each test will be different and there is no time limit on the test.
2 To be considered for admission to University College students must possess at least one of the following:
- A Required High School Curriculum (RHSC) diploma with at least a 2.0 GPA on RHSC units
- A Tech Prep diploma with at least a 2.2 GPA on Tech Prep units; or
- A GED credential
3 Students are RHSC (i.e. Required High School Curriculum) deficient if they do not have the required 17 units of the required curriculum. There are five areas: English, Math, Social Science, Foreign Language and Science. Students can satisfy the requirement by exiting Learning Support OR by enrolling in the required Learning Support class. The other areas can be satisfied by taking a college level course in the appropriate area and completing with a “C” or better. They cannot use the credit for graduation and they earn no hours credit for the coursework; however, it does count towards their grade point average.