Academic Policies and Practices

Goals in this category:

Align math requirements

Description

Traditional introductory-level math courses like college algebra or precalculus often don’t align with a student’s field of study. For instance, a logic class may be more appropriate for a philosophy major. Using a strategy called Math Pathways, colleges and universities can provide a variety of courses that better align with the skills a student needs to graduate and still fill math requirements.

Baseline

UWM has been moving away from a one-size-fits-all philosophy for introductory math since 2014, when we began implementing the Math Pathways strategy. Results are promising. The percentage of new entering students who are required to take a credit-bearing math course and complete such a course in their first year more than doubled from 24% in 2014 to 50% in 2019.

Goal

We will continue to evaluate math requirements to make sure students are taking courses that align with their fields of study. We will make sure it is easy for transfer students to understand what math courses are required at UWM.

Create academic maps

Description

Academic maps give students a guide to complete their coursework so they receive a quality education while reducing time and money (credit hours) spent toward graduation.

Baseline

UWM is the process of creating academic maps for degree programs, providing pathways to graduating on time that include recommendations for related activities that enhance resumes and hone skills needed to get a job. Recommended activities could include attending career fairs or running for student government.

Goal

UWM will continue the process of creating academic maps with goals of increasing rates of on-time graduation and producing more well-rounded students. We will incorporate recommendations from EAB like regularly reviewing course demand and scheduling to make sure that students have available the classes needed to follow their academic maps.

Ease the return of adult learners

Description

About 35 million adults older than 25 have completed some college credit without having earned a degree. Many have exhausted their eligibility for Pell Grants or may be in default on student loans. Adult learners also may be reluctant to return to school out of fear that they might not feel welcome and may be afraid of repeating the same failures.

Baseline

UWM started a summer marketing campaign, which included a financial incentive, aimed at former students who might be interested in returning to finish a degree. This resulted in a 10% increase in enrollment among adult students returning to UWM. We continuously evaluate how the UWM experience can best meet the often flexible schedules of adult learners. UWM is recognized nationally for the quality of its online instruction and educates more online students than any other university in the state of Wisconsin. We are ranked as one the top 50 online bachelor’s programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Goal

UWM plans to continue reaching out to former students or other adult learners interested in returning to school or advancing their education. We will look at ways to expand financial assistance to those in need and make sure that adult learners are aware of academic support options like advising and career counseling. We will make sure that adult learners are aware of flexible class schedules and options like virtual classes that may better fit into busier schedules.

Ease the transition for transfer students

Description

Transfer students often are unable to use all of their previously earned credits at their new institution, forcing them to spend more time and money (through credit hours) to earn a degree. Students of color often are much less likely to transfer credits successfully.

Baseline

UWM is the top destination for transfers in the UW System. UWM has expanded the number of courses that we accept for transfer from the Wisconsin Technical College System from more than 150 in Fall 2019 to nearly 2,300 in Fall 2020. We are working to strengthen partnerships with area technical colleges. We have expanded the use of Transferology, technology that allows prospective transfer students to more easily get answers to college transfer credit questions.

Goal

We will work with two-year institutions participating in Moon Shot to make sure there are coordinated academic maps so students transfer to UWM with junior standing. This will help ensure that students don’t take additional credits unless absolutely necessary. We will continue to use online portals to make it easy for potential transfer students to understand the transfer process, plan ahead and make sure that their credits will apply at UWM.

Offer metamajor pathways

Description

Metamajor pathways group a large number of similar programs of study under a broader academic umbrella. They allow undecided freshmen or sophomores to take classes in related subjects that they might be interested in pursuing further as majors while making sure those classes count toward their degrees. More defined pathways can help guide an undecided student’s deliberations on choosing a major.

Baseline

About 20% of new UWM freshmen typically haven’t chosen a major when they begin college. UWM began using metamajor pathways in 2018 by guiding undecided students into courses based on interests to help them choose a major. The retention rate of undecided students after one year increased from about 70% to nearly 77% following the first full year of the program. At UWM, undecided students are encouraged to declare a major within their first 30 credits.

Goal

We will continue to evaluate and build on our existing metamajor pathways. We will develop credit-bearing courses designed to offer students an overview of specific majors within metamajor groups as well as prospects for employment after graduation.

Offer retention grants

Description

Small grants or other kinds of economic assistance can help students who may not be able to register for classes because of a financial hold. Students who leave because of holds often do not return to pay bills. In the current economic environment, a financial setback like a layoff can mean the difference between completing courses or dropping out.

Baseline

UWM began offering $250,000 in retention grants in the 2019-20 academic year, targeting low-income students or others in need who were in their junior or senior years. Applications were reviewed to confirm eligibility.

Goal

UWM will review data on the percentage of students that received retention grants who returned for the Fall 2020 semester. This will help us determine the effectiveness of our first year of offering retention grants as we plan for the future. We will review other potential assistance programs that can help qualified students with small account balances. We will review student accounts regularly, taking a proactive approach to providing retention grants.

Revamp remedial math and English

Description

Remedial classes for incoming freshmen who need help in math or English often discourage students from staying in school, especially students of color and those from low-income families. Remedial classes can cost thousands of dollars but don’t count toward a degree. Rethinking strategies for those who need additional help in math and English can help more students stay in school and develop their academic skills on the way to graduation.

Baseline

UWM already has revamped strategies for incoming students who initially may not be prepared for college-level math or English. For example, UWM began offering a low-cost (one credit) preparatory “math success strategies” course that allows students to brush up on math and learn study skills, helping them place into a higher-level math course that can speed their path to graduation. The course uses adaptive learning technology that allows for individualized lessons to meet the needs of each student and instructor-guided materials on mindset and study habits. After starting as a pilot class in Fall 2019, the offering has been expanded for the Fall 2020 semester.

In English, UWM has replaced remedial courses with for-credit, introductory coursework that provides additional support and smaller class sizes. The pass rate has increased from 72% in 2015 to 89% in 2019.

Goal

UWM will continue to evaluate and enhance its offerings for students who may not be prepared initially for college-level writing or math and provide the tools and support needed to help them succeed.

Review registration holds

Description

The registration process can be confusing, especially when universities use a process called a “registration hold” that can prevent students from signing up for classes for administrative or financial reasons. For instance, a student might have a registration hold because of unfinished paperwork or an unpaid balance. Holds can discourage students from returning to school.

Baseline

UWM does not have many registration holds, compared to a number of other institutions. Nevertheless, UWM already is in the process of evaluating registration holds used at the university and their impact on students.

Goal

We will continue our thorough review of registration holds and make sure that any proposed new holds do not pose unnecessary barriers for students to register for classes. We will eliminate or revise obsolete or burdensome registration holds.