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Julie Preece, Cynthia Wong, Nathan Walch, Irene Windham, Ronald Chapman, and Scott Hosford, Brigham Young University

Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Julie Preece and Cynthia Wong in our upcoming Webinar, Advising Strategies for Students on Academic Probation.

BYU team.jpgMost universities have academic probation, suspension, and dismissal policies for students who fall below accepted academic standards (Cruise, 2002; Johnson, 2006). While most suspension and dismissal policies require students to take time away from the university, many programs include provisions for students to either return to good academic standing or return to the university after a specified amount of time away. Petitions or appeals processes allow institutions to make case-by-case determinations regarding students with exceptional circumstances or conditions.

While some institutions focus on providing appropriate intervention programs to assist these students (Austin, Cherney, Crowner & Hill, 1997; Dill, Gilbert, Hill, Minchew, & Sempier, 2010), there has been discussion about the efficacy of permitting students to continue at the institution  after earning a suspension or dismissal (Cogan, 2010).

At Brigham Young University (BYU), students who earn below 2.0 GPA after being on probation receive a suspension standing. Suspension requires students to spend one year away from the university. If students earn a second suspension (also known as dismissal), they are required to spend three years away. Less than 1% of the student body each semester are suspended or dismissed. Once academic standings are calculated, the Academic Support Office (ASO) notifies students of their standings via phone calls, emails, and letters.

Due to unique timing issues at the end of the fall semester in 2001, 2009, 2010, and 2011, the ASO experienced a recurring dilemma that disrupted the traditional academic standing process. As a result, students who were suspended and dismissed were given the option to remain at the university without spending the mandatory time away.

This article will address what happens to students who are suspended or dismissed, but not required to spend time away from the university. We will outline the main features of an alternative program (Option 3 Program) which allowed students to remain at the university without spending time away, and will also include statistics on post-semester academic success rates of students who participated in the Option 3 Program. Finally, we will conclude with a discussion on lessons learned while designing and implementing the Option 3 Program.

Rationale for Creating the Option 3 Program

After processing grades at the end of each semester, ASO advisors typically have several days to meet with newly suspended and dismissed students in order to

  • determine whether students are eligible to remain in school based on extenuating circumstances;
  • assist students with processing grade changes and petitions;
  • facilitate communication between students, faculty, and staff in academic departments and college advisement centers; and
  • help students transfer to other universities.

In fall semesters 2009, 2010, and 2011, grade processing occurred directly before the New Year’s holiday. Without sufficient time for advisors to make multiple contacts (phone calls, emails, and letters) to students regarding their academic standing, many students would have returned to the university on the first day of the winter semester (January to April) only to find out that they were suspended or dismissed.

The late notification would have caused significant problems for students, especially international students, by jeopardizing their student visas, eliminating opportunities for appeals or petitions, limiting the ability to transfer to another university, interrupting housing contracts, and delaying graduation plans.

When the timing dilemma first occurred at the end of fall semester 2001, the ASO simply allowed all suspended/dismissed students to continue taking classes the next semester without taking time away from the university. This decision was mainly due to the limitation of having only two academic advisors at the time.

When the ASO advising staff more than doubled in 2009, the director decided to implement the Option 3 Program with the goal of helping students on suspension and dismissal become more academically successful upon return. The premise of the Option 3 Program was that students had the option of remaining at the university regardless of their suspension or dismissal, providing that the student participated in the Option 3 Program outlined by the ASO.

Description of the Option 3 Program

On the evening of grade processing in 2009, students were sent notification via email and mail that academic standing changes had been made. We provided a thorough written explanation of the Option 3 Program along with an Academic Choice Response Sheet which students had to return to the ASO within the first week of winter semester, indicating which option they selected.

The Option 3 Program provided students with three choices:

  • Option 1: Students could voluntarily take their entire time away (one year away for academic suspension, three years away for academic dismissal) from the university to resolve their issues before returning. Students who chose Option 1 were encouraged to work with an ASO advisor during their time away.
  • Option 2: Students could voluntarily spend at least six months away from the university to resolve any issues, and then petition to return before their year away was completed.
  • Option 3: Students had the opportunity to remain in school without spending any time away from the university.

Students were disqualified from selecting Option 3 if their college deans and department chairs were not supportive of the student remaining in school. For the 2010 and 2011 Option 3 Program, students were also disqualified if they had taken advantage of Option 3 previously or had been academically suspended/dismissed during the previous 12 months or already had a petition granted. Finally, students were disqualified if they failed to turn in the Academic Choice Response Sheet by the deadline or if they failed to attend one of the Option 3 workshops.

Regardless of the option they chose, it was strongly recommended that all students personally visit with an ASO advisor. Option 3 students were required to attend a 1½-hour workshop hosted by the ASO staff. Each student had the choice of three different workshop times; all were held during the second week of winter semester.

The Option 3 workshops consisted of a more thorough discussion of the three options and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Students were also notified that if, by the end of winter semester they earned below a 2.0 GPA again, their original academic standing of suspension or dismissal would be reinstated and they would be required to take their time away. Parts of the workshops highlighted available resources on campus and approximately 30 minutes of the workshops focused on helping students develop better academic success skills. The workshops ended with an invitation for students to work with an ASO advisor regardless of the option they chose.

Results

During the semesters when we offered the Option 3 Program, we found that Option 3 students performed slightly better academically than when no interventions were offered at all.

The table below outlines the total percentages of students who: 1) returned to good standing, 2) remained on probation or 3) graduated at the end of the semester.

Table 1: Percentage of students who returned to good standing, remained on probation, or graduated from BYU the semester after their respective interventions

Semester

Intervention

Percentage of students

Fall 2001

None

54. 00%

Fall 2009

Option 3

67. 37%

Fall 2010

Option 3

62. 00%

Fall 2011

Option 3

62. 92%

 

Discussion

When compared to the group of students who were allowed to continue without any intervention (as was the case after fall 2001), the table above indicates that Option 3 students were slightly more successful academically based on higher percentages of students who returned to good academic standing, remained on probation, or graduated from the university.

We attribute this improvement to the fact that the ASO staff had more contact with academically struggling students through intrusive advisement and multiple interactions before, during and after the Option 3 workshops.

One drawback is that while intrusive advisement was helpful for the students participating in the Option 3 Program, the program created a heavy load of additional responsibilities for advisors during a busy time in the semester. Advisors reported feeling exhausted, not only by dedicating more advisement hours for the students, but also by offering evening workshops to accommodate students’ schedules.

One challenge we encountered while designing the Option 3 Program was that we did not have a contingency plan for students who failed to attend the designated workshops. Reasons students gave for missing the workshops ranged from having their cars get stuck in the snow to dealing with a bed bug infestation. We were not sure how to address these “exceptions” because we believed that offering the Option 3 Program was already an exception. When these issues came up, it became clear that some students were on suspension or dismissal for a reason, causing us to question again whether they would benefit from spending time away from the university.

Despite the few minor drawbacks of the Option 3 program, the main conclusion is that students who participate in the Option 3 program perform better academically than students who simply remain at the university with no intervention at all. 

Julie Preece, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University
julie_preece@byu.edu

Cynthia Wong, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University
cynthia_wong@byu.edu

Nathan Walch, M.S.
Brigham Young University
nathan_walch@byu.edu

Irene Windham, M.A.
Brigham Young University
irene_windham@byu.edu

Ronald Chapman, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University
ronald_chapman@byu.edu

Scott Hosford, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University
Scott_Hosford@byu.edu

References

Austin, M., Cherney, E., Crowner, J., & Hill, A. (1997). The forum: Intrusive group advising for the probationary student. NACADA Journal, 17(2), 45-47.

Cogan, M.F. (2010). Predicting success of academically dismissed undergraduate students using quality point status. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 12(4), 387-406. doi:10. 2190/CS. 12. 4. a. Retrieved from: http://baywood.metapress.com/app/home/contribution. asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,1,8;journal,13,58;linkingpublicationresults,1:300319,1

Cruise, C.A. (2002). Advising students on academic probation. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 4. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/021028cc.htm

Dill, A.L., Gilbert, J.A., Hill, J.P., Minchew, S.S, & Sempier, T.A. (2010). A successful retention program for suspended students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory And Practice, 12(3), 277-291. doi:10. 2190/CS. 12. 3. b. Retrieved from http://web. a. ebscohost. com/ehost/detail?sid=aa5d38f0-f7fc-4c79-9afc-90961ed5f692%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4214&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=psyh&AN=2010-25125-002

Johnson, I. Y. (2006). Analysis of stopout behavior at a public research university: The multi-spell discrete-time approach. Research in Higher Education, 47(8), 905-934.

 

Cite this article using APA style as: Preece, J., Wong, C., Walch, N., Windham, I., Chapman, R., & Hosford, S. (2014, December). Suspension or dismissal without time away: Implications for an alternative program. Academic Advising Today, 37(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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