SUNY New Paltz recently adopted a new policy where students are required to obtain their advisor’s signature on their graduation application along with an attached progress report.
This practice was implemented after numerous students applied for graduation, but did not fulfill the requirements.
“It was clear that no one was looking at their progress report and the progress report really tells you whether you’re done or not,” Registrar Bernadette Morris said. “In this way we can serve the students better.”
This process puts an emphasis on the progress report and how integral it is in determining a student’s graduation date. Morris said this system, which she established a month ago, helps to make the progress accurate and tells students what they still need to complete, or if they are finished.
“It really is beneficial for students, number one, they have a progress report that reads correctly and they know what they need to take next semester,” Morris said. “If they’re applying for graduation there’s no ‘Oh God, I hope I don’t get a notice.’ If the system says you’re okay then you’re O.K.”
With the progress report now attached to the application, Morris and other managers are able to immediately see if there is a “no” on the report and alert the student. This method has also reduced the amount of graduation clearance time from six to eight weeks down to three weeks, Morris said.
According to Morris, many times when students receive deficiency notices they are not even deficient, but rather needed substitutions of classes. Meeting with an advisor for the necessary signature allows students to speak with them about issues such as substitutions, and make the report show the right information. Advisors can also see what is missing, whether it is something to fill the major or a general education requirement.
The signature also makes students feel more comfortable about the status of their application.
“Students feel ‘Well good, my advisor also said I’m okay,’” Morris said.“If the advisor said O.K. without [the progress report] saying O.K., I would be the first one to jump on the phone and say ‘Why would you have done that?’”
Morris, an alumnas of SUNY New Paltz who was caught two upper division credits short for graduation, wishes something like this was available to her as a student and hopes it will make the process easier.
“It’s a traumatic thing to send a student a deficiency notice. You’ve worked so hard for your degree and then at the point of graduation to get a deficiency notice,” Morris said. “I want to stop traumatizing students and make sure everything’s okay and that the advisor is aware of what is going on.”
Thus far, Morris said she has received nothing but positive responses and they are reflected in the numbers. Previously, about 50 percent, “an alarmingly high percentage of students,” were not prepared for graduation. However, since the new practice has been put into place, about 100 percent of students are set for graduation. Morris said she specifically began the new process before the deadline for May applications and now they are all coming in complete.
“I really feel for the students, you’re very, very busy,” Morris said. “[In] your last semester you’re really kind of stressed out. Students are worried about jobs, graduate school. I want to take that burden off the students’ shoulders and get them out in a timely fashion.”