PDT Staff Writer
At its September meeting, the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees decided not to adopt the recommendations of admission standards presented by a task force consisting of faculty, staff and student representation.
The task force formed two years ago to determine what, if any, admissions standards the university should institute for applicants. Formation of the group was in response to a refocused mission for SSU within the University System of Ohio Strategic Plan and changes in the state’s funding formula for higher education.
The task force, which also was asked to recommend a strategy to implement the admission standards, submitted its final report to the SSU Board Of Trustees in April.
The Board of Trustees has been looking over the proposal and at their last meeting took action not to accept the recommendations.
In her weekly, Friday letter, dated Sept. 21, SSU President Dr. Rita Rice Morris stated, “last week, the board (of trustees) reconfirmed its commitment to Shawnee State University’s open admissions mission and determined that they will not continue discussion of admission standards at this time. The trustees have directed me to return to them with further analysis of factors impacting students who do not succeed academically or who drop out early, with the goal of developing programming to enhance their success.”
The task force, chaired by Dr. Tim Hamilton, recommended to the board that freshmen applicants meet two of three criteria, before admission is granted to SSU.
Criteria included, achieving a minimum high school grade point average, achieving a minimum ACT composite test score and achieving a high school class rank in the upper two-thirds of their class.
Caveats existed for adult admission or students from high schools that do not utilize class rankings, but a 2.0 to 2.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale and ACT composite test scores between 16 and 18 were recommended as admission requirements.
The task force also recommended to the board that if admission standards were to be adopted they should be phased-in.
“Because this proposal represents a significant move from the open admission philosophy that Shawnee State University has had since its inception, we recommend that this program be ‘phased in,” the recommendation stated.
Morris said SSU is a continuous improvement institution so they are constantly asking big questions.
“I can’t speak for the board, but it was a question that was coming up, because the standards for funding are changing with regard to course completion and graduation rates,” Morris said.
She said since the task force started looking that the question of admission standards, the chancellor came along with his plan.
In January, the SSU Board of Trustees endorsed a plan by the Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro to increase the school’s course completion rates and the number of degrees awarded.
SSU and Central State University are the only universities in Ohio that receive a special supplement in the state’s budget. SSU’s supplement has been as high as $4 million. It is currently at $2.4 million.
With the passage of House Bill 153, Petro was required to submit a plan to state legislators. The plan was to ensure the “Shawnee State Supplement will be used to promote the goals of improving course completion, increasing the number of degrees conferred and furthering the university’s mission of service to the Appalachian region,” Petro wrote in a letter to the school.
“The success of our students has always been a priority of this university. The history has always been we would meet students where they are and we would get them as far as we would get them. Sometimes that took 10 or 11 years, we did not initially worry too much about the fact it took some students 10 or 12 years for them to graduate,” Morris said. “A lot has changed over the last eight to 10 years. Now there is a great financial pressure to move people through a lot faster. We have identified improving our retention and graduation rates as a priority and it’s now being linked to some of our funding.”
Shawnee’s goals, beginning with new students in the fall of 2013, are to improve the rate of successfully completed courses by one to three percent for each class for the next 10 years, increase associate and/or baccalaureate degrees by one to three percent for each class entering in the successive 10-year period and to further its service to the Appalachian region by strengthening relationships with key regional employees and school districts.
Dr. Watson Scott Swail, a retention consultant has been commissioned by the chancellor to work with SSU in their retention efforts.
“As a result of (the chancellor’s plan) we have shifted a lot of resources into retention, which matches who we are as an institution,” Morris said. “One of the things that came out of those conversations was that since we’ve put together our Office of Institutional Effectiveness, we now better understand the dynamics of the student that comes to us under prepared.”
Morris did not rule out the possibility of reexamining the issue of possible admission standards in the future.
“What’s good about the work that was done by the task force, is that they gave us a good framework for future discussions,” Morris said.
She said as the basis for funding changes, institutions like SSU has to look at these questions.
“The decision by the board to continue with open admission means that we are going to continue to put resources into helping people that need development. It also means that we recognize the fact that we are going to have to work harder for our funding,” Morris said. “I think it was the right question to ask, I guarantee you we will look at it again.”
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.