Incoming Students May Face New Degree Requirements

Chart comparing retention rates for students who took COLL 101 vs those who did not. Shows that the retention rate was higher by about 10% for Winter 2015, Spring 2015, and Fall 2015 for students who took COLL 101.

Next Fall, incoming Clark students pursuing a transfer degree may be required to take a two-credit college introductory course.

At this year’s state of the college address, President Bob Knight announced that COLL 101 will be made mandatory for transfer students. The course was introduced as an elective in 2013 and is designed to prepare students to be successful.

COLL 101 covers time management, financial aid and student involvement, according to instructor Kristin Sherwood. Students are also given tours of the campus library and career resource center.

Kristin Sherwood, COLL 101 instructor

Kristin Sherwood, COLL 101 instructor

“It’s a course that introduces tools and resources that really help students understand what’s available to them at Clark,” Sherwood said.

The goal of making COLL 101 a required course is to improve student retention, said Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook.

The Office of Planning and Effectiveness studied student retention in 2014-15 and determined that retention for first-term non-Running Start students who took COLL 101 was 56.7 percent, compared with 48.7 percent for students who didn’t take it.

The data shows a dramatic difference between those who take COLL 101 and those who don’t, Cook said. With a graduation rate of 25 percent according to the National Center for Education Statistics, student retention is a major concern for Clark administrators.

Cook said COLL 101 is part of Clark’s efforts to implement guided pathways, programs intended to make it easier for students to complete their education by providing more structure, academic planning and face-to-face interaction with students.

The decision to make COLL 101 a required course hasn’t been universally popular with faculty, however. Health and PE instructor and AA Advisory Committee member Garrett Hoyt views COLL 101 as unnecessary for many students.

Garrett Hoyt, Health and PE instructor and AA advisory committee member

Garrett Hoyt, Health and PE instructor and AA advisory committee member

Students who have past experience at other colleges, for example, may find the class a waste of time, Hoyt said. Making COLL 101 mandatory would also limit student’s choice.

“If they’re taking two more credits of COLL 101, they’re taking 2 fewer credits of PE, Health, Art, Music, Drama, or whatever people take for fun.”

Although originally funded by a federal title III grant that runs out on Sept. 30, Cook anticipates that COLL 101 will pay for itself as long as class sections fill up in Fall. If they don’t, faculty may feel the impact.

“The cost associated with COLL 101 is layoffs in my department,” Hoyt said.

More than 500 students enrolled in COLL 101 in Fall 2015, filling 29 sections, according to Sherwood.

One unintended consequence of making COLL 101 mandatory could be the straining of existing college resources, such as the counseling and tutoring center, as more students learn about and utilize them, said Hoyt.

Another concern of Hoyt’s is that there are no tenured faculty members to oversee COLL 101, which is unusual for a required program. Tenure is important to protect instructors from internal college politics, Hoyt said.

The move to make COLL 101 a mandatory course hasn’t been finalized. The proposal has been recommended by the AA advisory committee and is being reviewed by the Instructional Planning Team, which is expected to make a decision by the end of the quarter, said Hoyt.

Student Ezekiel Wells said that despite anticipating that COLL 101 would be a waste of time, he found that the class gave him the tools to succeed at Clark.

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