Study conducted over summer shows First Year Experience doesn't impact student performance, retention

The Office of Institutional Research's summer statistical analysis of the First Year Experience program shows the class does not affect the performance or retention rates of students.

The study focused on all the retention statistics from 2008-11 and used a regression procedure, which finds similarities in stats between demographics such as race, gender and high school performance, to determine the effectiveness of the FYE course.

“Results show that participation in FYE does not add any difference of any student retention or performance,” said Wei Zhou, department director.

In response to the study, the FYE course has been suspended for the 2013-14 school year, a decision Provost Gary Shapiro announced during Tuesday's Academic Senate meeting.

"(The suspension is) not because of enrollment; it's because the class is not meeting the expectations of why we embarked on the program, which was student success and retention," Interim Vice Provost Claudia Douglass said.

During the year-long suspension, the program will be comprehensively reviewed to improve the course's effectiveness.

“It’s being reviewed so we can make sure we are doing everything we can for students,” said former FYE executive Jason Bentley. “It has nothing to do with being targeted for elimination as a part of academic prioritization.”

Bentley was the program director for six years and returned to the Residence Life department Thursday as part of the natural cycle of the FYE position.

Bentley stressed the review of the program, saying it is intended to better the students' experience.

“Reviewing current programs and seeing if they are doing all they can do is a benefit to the students," he said. “A responsible university reviews its programs and looks for the best ways to support the students. That’s what this is.”

The last comprehensive review of the program was conducted in 2006, Bentley said, and he can’t speculate what will happen next.

“I can’t really speculate what will happen, but I do know that they will look at what is the best way to support students,” he said.

Bentley said this review is not part of academic prioritization and there has never been any indication the program would be terminated. Bentley also noted there is a possibility of special sections of the class being run next year for special needs students.

A year without the program is something Towers Academic Advisor Jamie Brown thinks will really hurt students.

“It’s sad to see it put on hiatus for a year because it’s a loss for the students,” Brown said. "I think, overall, that it is a really good class and helps students in their transition to CMU because not every student does Leadership Safari or is in a special learning community.”

Brown said she has many students who come back to her and say the class was great because it really allowed them to connect with the campus.

With class sizes in the mid-20s, Brown thinks the small class environment will be the biggest loss to students.

Brown said students will be missing out on key opportunities to learn about topics such as how to use the library and cultural diversity on campus.

“If a student’s classes are all larger lecture classes, the absence of FYE removes that smaller contact with a faculty member and makes CMU seem a lot bigger,” she said.


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