- The Academic Standards and Student Records Committee met on Nov. 23, 2004 from 1:30 p.m. till approximately 3:15 p.m. to discuss issues surrounding the probation/suspension policy of UTB/TSC. Mr. Al Barreda (UTB/TSC’s Registrar), Ms. Diana Bustamente (Counseling), Dr. Deborah Huerta (Assistant Director of Counseling), and Ms. Yolanda De La Riva (Interim Director of Business Office) participated as guests.
- The first order of business consisted of reviewing and approving the minutes of the previous meeting of September 9, 2004. Dr. Abrego motioned for the minutes to be approved as presented. Dr. Arney seconded her motion, and the minutes were accepted by the committee.
- Dr. Huerta began the discussion by observing that approximately 2000 UTB/TSC students are carrying a GPA of below 2.0. Some of these students have already accumulated as many as 120 credit hours. Dr. Arney wanted to know how the use of emergency loans fits into the probation/suspension issue. Ms. De La Riva explained that once students discover that they cannot receive financial aid for whatever reason, there is usually a big rush to get emergency loans. However, to receive emergency loans, students must have first registered for classes. Once approved and distributed, emergency loans have to be repaid within 30 days. More that 90 % of the recipients pay them off; fewer than 10 % don’t. Typically the students who don’t repay their emergency loans register late and have a GPA below 2.0.
- At this point, Ms. Villarreal inquired about the requirements to get an emergency loan. Ms. De La Riva answered that students had to be registered and in good standing. If outstanding loans became a burden, further restrictions applied. In addition, she mentioned that the loans were only for tuition.
- Mr. Welther asked if emergency loans generally harm academically weak students. Dr. Huerta informed the committee of the fact that they harm these students by allowing them to continue accumulating an even bigger bad GPA. To prevent students from doing so, the university needs to institute an early warning system like Austin Community College. Ms. Chapa mentioned that once students lose financial aid, they are unlikely to regain it.
- Asked by Dr. Ragland where the 2000 students with GPAs below 2.0 were, Dr. Huerta replied that they were all across the university’s student population, but not so many would be found in the upper level. Ms. Villarreal wanted to know whether the bad GPA was accumulated in one semester only. Dr. Huerta answered that the problem is that once students go below a 2.0, they go down for good. To keep their financial aid, students need to pass 70 % of their attempted courses and carry a GPA of 2.0 or better. Students cannot go beyond 150 % of their credit hours. If they do, they will lose financial aid. Dr. Ragland added that under the new state law, a course can only be attempted twice. Ms. Chapa reiterated this point by saying the Financial Aid pays twice. At this point, it became apparent to committee members that even a withdraw with a passing grade counts as an attempt.
- When Dr. Abrego asked how failing grades came about generally, Dr. Huerta responded that most of them happened because students stopped attending. Dr. Abrego then said that professors should alert students of the fact that they need to drop before the 12th class day. Dr. Arney concurred with Dr. Abrego on alerting students of the consequences of dropping classes later. Mr. Barreda mentioned that a bottom list of students by program of study or major needs to be assembled. He also mentioned that students who are taking a full course load and are enrolled in developmental courses are usually in jeopardy of dropping below a GPA of 2.0.
Ms. De La Riva pointed at another problem which consists of the fact that as tuition is rising, more students need to work full-time to meet the rising financial demands; however, doing so, they have less time left to pursue their studies. Ms. Villarreal pondered the fact that tightening the screws on the students would lead to a higher case load for the suspension committee, whose members, according to Ms. Bustamente, are actually wearing two hats, one as defender and one as prosecutor
- Commenting on the students’ misunderstanding on standards of work, Dr. Arney felt that students didn’t receive enough guidance and wondered whether faculty reported nonattending students. Mr. Barrera told the committee that more faculty members had been reporting absent students than previously, and Dr. Dameron recommended that a statement be included in syllabi advising students as to their academic responsibilities. Ms. Villarreal put forth another idea to heighten students’ understanding of standards of work: have counselors come to classes to talk to students. Dr. Arney proposed that academically weak students should be limited in the number of hours they can enroll in, and Mr. Welther remarked that any profound changes in the standard of work policy should be preceded by studying pertinent data. He suggested to analyze data data concerning classes attempted and credits earned but wasn’t sure when such a study should begin.
- Ms. Bustamente instructed the committee that financial aid was lost when students were below a GPA of 2.0 and/or had failed to pass 70 % of their coursework during the first three semesters. Mr. Welther was wondering as to how many students might fall into this basket. Squinting his eyes and scanning the ceiling, Mr. Barreda surmised that about 2400 or slightly more students might fall into this group. Dr. Arney suggested that a number count be undertaken, and Mr. Barreda promised that he would collect data before grades were being posted this semester (fall 2004). He also added that students who were flunking were wasting their financial aid, which caused Ms. Villarreal to note that rules governing the distribution of emergency loans be changed to prevent students from getting into more trouble financially and academically. Ms. De La Riva interjected that emergency loans were primarily used to help if financial aid was late. She also suggested to look at several semesters worth of data to determine any trends.
- Dr. Abrego asked the committee and guests whether Counseling worked with BISD. Ms. Bustamente replied that this was the job of outreach programs, and Mr. Welther added that these programs were probably only designed to get students into the college. Dr. Abrego remarked that the committee should invite Mr. Carlos Tamayo to share the committee’s concerns with him and get a look at his flyers.
- There was no new business, and the committee adjourned at about 3:15 p.m.