The idea of the University Registrar may conjure up images of compliance, regulations, transactions, transcripts, and the seemingly tedious and confusing process of registering for courses. At Colorado State University (CSU), we view our Office of the Registrar as a key component of student success and we act accordingly.
In September 2011, CSU President Tony Frank identified new benchmarks for four- and six-year student graduation rates. These rates, 60% and 80% respectively, represented new goals in the overall student Success Initiatives (SSI) as part of the University Strategic Plan. In order to reach these new marks, first year retention needs to increase from 82% to 90% and other significant changes would need to occur in the curricular and co-curricular landscape at CSU.
The Office of the Registrar has made a clear choice to actively participate in campus committees to provide resources toward these goals. We are functional experts with the student information system (SIS) that includes the degree audit system and numerous other bolt-on solutions, we have expertise with and access to the student education record data, and we are highly-trained process analysts with long-standing interest in student success. It was an easy decision to motivate resources to support this university effort.
Our office’s mission explicitly states that a primary focus is success of students in their academic career. While we ensure compliance in our work, our focus is on developing creative solutions that promote access and informed enrollment management practices. In the last few years, we have supported the university’s student success initiatives with the following measurable activities.
- Planning Course Offerings. Registrar staff participate in course capacity planning to ensure adequate course sections are available each semester so that undergraduate students can build full schedules and find courses that fulfill degree requirements. Staff members mine data from the degree audit system to help predict how many students need specific courses that historically have limited capacity and have proven to be bottlenecks. In addition, staff use projected enrollment from the admissions office to identify the number of seats and sections needed to meet incoming freshmen demand.
- Undergraduate Planned Leave. A new policy allows students to identify a term when they will be on leave and keeps their student record active. Registrar staff led the project team that implemented the policy and Registrar office IT staff and Banner analysts developed the online solution.
- Credit Recovery Courses. Registrar office staff work each term with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs (VPUA) and the Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts to integrate 8-week courses that occur in the second half of the fall and spring terms. These courses allow students that drop a course early in the term the opportunity to fill the hole in their schedule with another course and finish the term with credits that will keep them on track toward four-year graduation.
- Student Portal Enhancements. Registrar office web development staff run the student portal “RAMweb” and coordinate development of self-service tools for students to complete numerous administrative transactions such as registering for classes or accepting their financial aid. As part of the Student Success Initiatives the team worked with the iPASS committee to improve text preferences for communication and expand the alerts to students to take specific actions related to academics or financial issues.
- Restricted add/drop. Working with the VPUA and Associate Deans, the Registrar’s team implemented a process that requires an override in order to add a course after the first week of classes. After the first week of instruction students must engage with faculty to get an override before they can add a course. This ensures students engage with faculty and their advisor to confirm their ability to perform well in a course after missing a week of instruction. Prior to this change students could add a course without faculty or advisor input after missing up to two and a half weeks of instruction.
- Post-Grade Prerequisite Checks. The Registrar’s team coordinated with the VPUA and Associate Deans to implement the post-grade prerequisite check. This process checks for students who failed to earn a grade of “C” or better in a course that is a prerequisite for a course for which the student is registered in the following term. After grades are submitted, students that fall into this category are emailed, along with their advisor, and given one week to make arrangements to stay in the course or drop and find another course before being automatically dropped.
- Registration Waitlist. The Registrar’s team consulted with the student government and Associate Deans to implement a registration waitlist for all undergraduate courses. The waitlists are heavily used by students. The first student on a waitlist is notified by email and optionally by text message when a seat is available. The student has 24 hours to add the course before the next student is notified. Waitlist data is extremely valuable and used by the course capacity committee for course section planning.
- Registration Outreach. After the four-week early registration period when all students have an opportunity to complete their following term registration, the Registrar’s team emails all students who have not yet registered as a call to action. In addition, we send reports that identify students who have holds that are preventing registration to advisors and other key administrative departments. Together, we coordinate outreach and assistance to students to complete the requirements for the hold so it can be removed.
- College of Engineering Pass/Fail. We worked with the VPUA and the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering to pilot an opt-in program for first year undergraduate engineering majors. Students who opt-in take all of their first-semester classes Pass/Fail rather than for traditional grades. University policy and end-of-term academic record processing changes were required to support this initiative. The goal was to ensure students could explore the engineering program without negatively affecting their GPA in a high stress and very difficult major the first semester of their freshman year.
- Four-year Course Planning Software. The Registrar team led the implementation of the four-year course planning software for student planning. We spearheaded the development of four-year major completion maps for every undergraduate major, working with curriculum representatives from each academic department.
- Education Advisory Board (EAB) Student Success Platform for Advisors. The EAB system provides analytics from review of 10 years of student academic record history that is used to identify curricular challenges from numerous data points and it also provides a new set of online advising tools. As Registrar, I serve on the leadership team for EAB implementation and led the technical implementation team for managing the process of loading data from our SIS to the EAB student success platform.
- Data. Our analysts provide numerous variations of reports from SIS so that the university’s vice presidents and retention and graduation leadership can analyze student education records. Data on student veterans, learning communities, financial holds, registration patterns, transfer coursework and transfer students, first-generation students, and many more are used to identify patterns and risk indicators for future warning and alert systems.
- Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) Team. I serve on the university iPASS team and Registrar staff participate in implementing iPASS technology solutions including alert systems, degree audit and course planning systems, and mobile efforts.
Christopher Seng is registrar at Colorado State University.