Task force report on MSU-Moorhead's Corrick Center

Got this from MSU – Moorhead. I believe the university president refers to this document in the previous post. It appears to be the (probably revised) task force recommendations regarding its Corrick Center for at-risk students

I’ll present it in full:

The Corrick Center: A Time for Change

Public universities are responsible for preparing graduates to meet the needs of state and regional economies. In recent years, the public has called for more accountability in public institutions. In addition to academic quality, universities are accountable for student success, which is defined primarily as graduation rate. At Minnesota State University Moorhead, our plan to improve student success includes changes in the delivery of academic services that have been handled by the Corrick Center. In order to explain these changes, we will provide an overview of (a) the Corrick Center legacy, (b) changes in Minnesota higher education, (c) Corrick Center outcomes, (d) the rationale for change, (e) changes, and (f) the impact on current students.

Corrick Center Legacy

President Emeritus Roland Dille founded the Corrick Center in 1972. At that time, there were few good options for students unprepared for university study. For many years, the Center gave students who needed additional support the opportunity for a college education. Many students flourished through the efforts of the Center, and we are proud to count its graduates as our alumni. Some have gone on to very prestigious graduate and law schools, and three are tenured members of our faculty.

Changes in Minnesota Higher Education

Since the founding of the Center, the landscape of public higher education in Minnesota has been reshaped. We have become part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. The system is a network of 32 colleges and universities with 54 campuses that was founded to increase higher education access and affordability for the citizens of Minnesota. An important feature of the system is the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. This set of guiding principles enables specific courses taken at community and technical colleges to transfer to system universities.

In the system, community colleges specialize in access and in providing the support needed to help at-risk students to succeed. Their tuition is lower, and they provide remedial programs along with options for technical training and associate degrees. Attending a community college can increase students’ success if they do decide to go on and complete a four-year degree.

Corrick Center Outcomes

The combination of the current opportunities in the system and the outcome data for our Corrick Center suggest a time for change in our approach to at-risk students. Specifically, the Corrick Center had an average six year graduation rate of 24%, for the four most recent years available. Only one in four Corrick entrants left the university with a four- year degree within six years. Our campus six-year graduation rate without the Corrick Center is 46%. (Partial data for the most recent years shows a continuation of the same gap.)

Further investigation of the outcomes for Corrick Center students revealed another troubling trend. Data from the National Clearinghouse regarding students who began at MSUM from Fall 2000 through Fall 2009, but did not continue at MSUM, revealed that the majority of Corrick students who left MSUM did not transfer to another institution. For those who did, an analysis of the top twenty receiving institutions showed that 78% of the Corrick students who transferred went to a community or technical college rather than a four-year institution. In addition to not completing degrees, many Corrick students left the university with considerable debt.

Rationale for Change

The rationale for change to the Corrick Center is twofold. First, we can no longer justify duplication of services offered at the community colleges. Second, we have increased our focus on student success throughout the campus. Taking these points together, we can no longer justify the practice of designating a limited cohort of students as Corrick Center students when so many entering students arrive under-prepared and at-risk for non-completion.

Currently, due to the economy, public higher education in Minnesota is receiving significantly fewer state dollars. An additional reduction is expected in the 2012 biennium. To that end, it is important to consider the best, non-duplicative deployment of state resources in order to provide access and affordability for state citizens and support for the state and regional workforce.

It is not a financially wise decision for four-year universities to offer the same services as their neighboring community colleges. Many students could be served less expensively at community and technical colleges. The Minnesota transfer curriculum has made it easier for students who start at such institutions to transfer to Minnesota State University Moorhead or other four-year universities in Minnesota.

In September, 2010, Minnesota State University Moorhead formed a task force to suggest positive steps for improving our retention and graduation rates. Composed primarily of faculty, the task force issued an interim report in December. Based on study of nationally recognized best practices for at-risk students, the task force concluded that a number of longstanding Corrick Center policies have created barriers to timely progress toward a bachelor’s degree. The task force recommended changes that would minimize our long-standing distinctions between Corrick and non-Corrick students. After a thorough review of the recommendations and findings, the administration has concluded that there is no longer a sound rationale for preserving the distinction.

Changes

The first aspect of change has been the admissions process. Freshman applicants who do not satisfy our automatic admission criteria are now screened by our new admissions advisory task force, which includes a Corrick faculty member, a Corrick Center graduate who is a faculty member, and other faculty and administrators. We are becoming more selective in our admissions and are directing more of the most at-risk students to the community and technical colleges. Those at-risk students recommended by the committee will be admitted to the university rather than the Corrick Center. They will have a contract that specifies additional support, primarily through a study skills course and intensive advising.

The second aspect of change has been curricular.  We have concluded that the best use of both our faculty expertise and resources is to provide unified services for all at-risk students, not just those served by the Corrick Center. Personal attention and mentoring in the academic major is a hallmark of the education experience at Minnesota State University Moorhead. We are making changes that will insure that all students will receive the same integrated experience of major programs and general education that are currently available to non-Corrick students. Students who delay entrance into an academic major are more likely to leave college than are students who integrate quickly into a major program. The task force recommended removing the existing Corrick Center policy that delayed immediate declaration of an academic major. However, once that step is taken, the rationale for a separate general education program is significantly weakened.

Based on national data for student success, the task force recommended that resources for at-risk students should be focused on literacy and mathematics, together with career exploration that will move all undecided students into their major programs.

Many at-risk students enter college without a clear understanding of how college majors relate to careers. Often, these students find it difficult to select a major program of study. Many of them accumulate debt by taking elective courses that do not advance them toward the goal of graduation. A specific class that focuses on career exploration will be a great help to at-risk students and will move them more quickly into their major and ultimately to their degree.

Research indicates that completing mathematics in a timely basis is another key to completing a college degree. If there are delays with math, there are often delays with degree completion. Writing is an essential skill for completing most upper level courses in a student’s major. Because the disciplinary focus will be on Mathematics and English, those departments will take responsibility for the curriculum and the faculty. Current Corrick faculty with expertise in Mathematics and English will be given the opportunity to request re-rostering and transfer to those departments. Put simply, a core element of both academic quality and shared governance is that faculty in the disciplines bear responsibility for both the curriculum and the hiring and evaluation of disciplinary faculty.

Because these changes will result in most of the faculty being relocated to Mathematics or English, we have decided to close the Corrick Center at the end of the current semester. This decision has been made to promote the success of all at-risk students admitted to the university and to make the most efficient use of our decreasing financial resources.

We believe that we can enhance the overall success of students at Minnesota State University Moorhead by referring the least prepared students to the community and technical colleges. This will enable us to deploy more resources to assure that all students have the critical early mathematics, English, and advising support to promote their ultimate success, that is, receipt of a bachelor’s degree. These changes will benefit those at–risk students we do accept by increasing their likelihood of degree completion.

Impact on Current Students

A specialized team of academic advisors has been assembled to assist current Corrick students in transitioning to their majors or other areas of the university. These advisors will meet individually with students and assist them in planning for the transition and any additional support services that will support their success.