Colleges adopt degree auditing platform to keep students on track

(Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty Images)

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The higher education software developer CollegeSource on Wednesday announced that two community colleges will adopt its degree auditing platform in the hope of reducing excess credits for transferring students and expediting the path to graduation.

Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico and Ozarks Technology Community College in Springfield, Missouri, are each planning implementations of the company’s uAcheive platform to automate various aspects of degree auditing and academic planning. Through “tailored reports” that outline student progress, along with “robust transfer articulation,” advisers can ensure students have selected their most direct route to graduation.

University enrollment has dropped during the pandemic as students have struggled with the added challenges of remote study or faced financial concerns. Community colleges have been especially hard hit by the enrollment dip, CollegeSource president Troy Holaday said in the company’s announcement.

“uAchieve was designed with this purpose in mind, offering institutions the ability to track students’ progress toward degrees and credentials at every turn, while handling the most complex curriculum requirements and empowering advisors to help students clear their individual paths to graduation,” Holaday said.

Ozarks Technology Community College already has an auditing system, but much of it follows a slower, manual process, said Scott Fiedler, the college’s registrar and director of admissions. Missouri requires that students not have any excess credit hours, and the new platform will allow the college to shift credits around to meet that requirement, limiting unnecessary course enrollment, he told EdScoop.

“Either the student or an adviser has to catch those excess credits on an audit and then we have to physically waive credit hours because we on our current audit system can’t break them up and move them, so we’re actually waiving requirements due to excess hours,” Fiedler said. “uAchieve degree audit will allow us to break up both a transfer and a native course and use those credit hours to meet more than one requirement. I’m hoping our total month per credit hours to graduate will decrease.”

Although higher education institutions have grown more focused on retaining their students during the pandemic, Fiedler said his college’s initiative began at least a decade ago, but that its strategy has shifted from one of “removing barriers” to proactive support. Removing common barriers to graduation — like required meetings with academic advisers or required orientations — wasn’t sufficient for students who often came to his office confused, he said.

“Now instead of removing all barriers, we’re moving to more intentional support,” he said. “We really feel like a better degree audit system is one of those intentional supports we need to provide our students.

Ozarks Technology Community College is planning a soft launch of the software this summer, with and a full implementation in fall.

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