What Works Now: Mountie Academic Plan Mt. San Antonio College
October 16, 2013 | Written by: Nadia Valliani, Research and Policy Analyst, Campaign for College Opportunity
Facing the challenge of low student success rates and amid the backdrop of budget cuts which created waitlists for nearly half a million California community college students who were trying to access classes, the Board of Governors for the California Community Colleges voted to provide priority enrollment for students with a plan to transfer and/or earn a certificate or degree. An important component of priority enrollment included ensuring that students complete an assessment test, attend orientation and develop an educational plan. Research has found that students who attend orientation and complete an educational plan are significantly more likely to achieve their academic objectives than those who do not. Mount San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) looked to innovative technology to facilitate completion of student education plans and to maximize the time students and counselors have together.
Mt. SAC, located in Los Angeles County, is one of the largest community colleges in California, with more than 28,000 full-time equivalent students enrolled in 2012, is committed to improving student success outcomes and preparing the college for new regulations related to priority enrollment.In the fall of 2012, Mt. SAC established the Mountie Academic Plan (MAP), an online tool to help students monitor degree progress, conduct “what if” scenarios to consider various academic options, and view educational plans developed with counselors. The ultimate goal of the online Mountie Academic Plan is to improve counseling effectiveness and student completion rates. Students armed with educational plans that chronologically sequence required courses for degree completion are much more likely to achieve academic objectives.
Easily Accessible – Students access MAP through the Mt. SAC online student portal which students already use to register for classes.
Educational Plan – Students and counselors collaborate to create a clear educational plan. The online visibility of this plan encourages students to stay on track to complete their academic goals.
Degree Progress Tracking – Students view their progress, course by course, towards their declared degree objective. MAP also allows students to try different “what-if” scenarios to assess their progression to completing other degrees and certificates.
Transfer Progress – Students can view their progress toward a variety of transfer options: the Cal State University (CSU) general education requirements, University of California (UC) Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC), and the new Associate Degree for Transfer. Additionally, students can view their Mt. SAC overall GPA, Mt. SAC Degree Applicable GPA, and CSU transferrable GPA and UC transferrable GPA.1
PROCESS AND COST
MAP uses the software DegreeWorks, a program offered by a technology solutions company catering to higher education institutions. In 2009 it cost $48,000 to license the Degree Works software with an annual maintenance fee of approximately $9,500. Mt. SAC has a campus-wide Oracle Database license, so there was no incremental cost to purchase a database license for this application.
In order to bring MAP to full implementation, “scribers” entered and programmed each course catalog since 2009. Second, academic departments determined course equivalencies of transfer coursework from key feeder schools which was then entered into the system. In addition, counselors, student services staff, and IT personnel were trained on the software and workshops were conducted for faculty to familiarize them with the new program.
Mt. SAC offered a “soft” launch of MAP in January 2013 which entailed full counselor use of the program and availability on student portals as a new self-service tool. This limited use, unmarketed process allowed for the detection and fixing of “bugs” in the program before the official launch in February. The official launch consisted of a comprehensive marketing campaign composed of direct messages in the student portal, posters and flyers around campus, Facebook messages and posts, emails to student listservs, class presentations, ads placed in the class schedule, a webpage specifically devoted to MAP, and notices on Mt. SAC’s homepage and marquee.
Since the official launch of MAP in February 2013, more than 4,000 students have developed an educational plan with guidance from a counselor. Prior to utilizing MAP, Mt. SAC administrators could not easily track the number of the students without an educational plan—this tool has helped counselors identify and reach out to those students. Mt. SAC predicts that many more students will take advantage of MAP in the coming semesters and is encouraged by the progress and enthusiasm already being displayed among the student body. Mt. SAC’s use of MAP allows for several benefits to students:•Enhanced counseling sessions: The online tracking system increases counselor effectiveness during the 30-minute sessions. Counselors spend time conducting more in-depth counseling and guidance instead of determining course history and requirements, which is available to students via MAP. Additionally, student engagement has increased as many more students arrive at counseling sessions with questions or concerns based on the information gained from MAP.
- Accessible Documentation: Prior to the launch of MAP, educational plans were completed by hand and a photocopy was kept in the student file with the original given to the student. Paper copies were often lost or destroyed and there was no easy way to update this critical document. The new online tool allows students or counselors access to the document 24/7. Furthermore, counselors can easily view educational plans that were developed with previous counselors.
- Enrollment Planning: Based on course selections from student educational plans, Mt. SAC can accurately assess the most popular courses and provide future course offerings to match demand appropriately. Wider course offerings increase student access to critical classes thereby reducing time to completion.
- Degree and Certificate Awards: Students often unknowingly accumulate coursework and units that qualify them for additional degrees or certificates. MAP alerts administrators to those students nearing degree or certificate completion and can potentially auto-award the degree or certificate for those who have already completed the required coursework and units. Additionally, through the process of vetting courses and inputting requirements into MAP, Mt. SAC unexpectedly found several discrepancies in degree requirements which were corrected, resulting in more accurate degree tracking.
- Transfer Reform: The online system has incorporated requirements for the new Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT), a degree that guarantees a student admission to the CSU system with junior status. MAP allows students to track their progress toward the ADT, thereby improving student success and reducing time to completion.
- Priority Registration: Mt. SAC students with educational plans will have priority enrollment, per the new regulatory change, improving their likelihood of successfully registering for essential courses, resulting in a reduction in cost and time to completion.
For more information on the Mountie Academic Plan, please contact: Heidi Lockhart, Director of Career and Transfer Services, Mount San Antonio College firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:Nadia Valliani is the Research and Policy Analyst for the Campaign for College Opportunity.
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