August - Return to Campus and Student Success

Dr. Wendy Kilgore |
August 27, 2021
  • Research
  • 2021 Transfer Summit
  • AACRAO Research Grants
  • AACRAO Research Insights
  • AACRAO Research Resources
  • data analytics
  • Research
  • Reverse Transfer
  • Tech Transfer

Happy August 2021. I don't know about you, but 2021 is flying by for me, and I wonder where June and July 2021 went. Many of you are amid a fall start, and I hope that is going well for you.

For this month's commentary, I wanted to share a research inquiry on undecided students from Matt Reed. He authors the “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog in Inside Higher Ed. In his August 11, 2021 blog post, he talks about how his institution created an "undecided" major a couple of years ago with the idea that if students selected this major, the college would provide targeted advising and a success course. The student demographic data for undecided majors gave Mr. Reed cause for pause and raised more questions. The population of undecideds is "disproportionately young White men," he wrote. Mr. Reed proposes a few theories as to why this might be but is seeking input from others who may have data on undecideds as well. In his own words, he would like to "get from the 'that's weird stage' to the 'and here's how to use this information stage.’" If you have any resources for him, you can contact him here.

I am equally curious to know if others have encountered the same data and have any supporting theories that lend themselves well to action-based student services to help undecideds find their path in college.

AACRAO Research Update

Deadline for the AACRAO Research Grant Rapidly Approaching

The deadline to apply for this upcoming year’s available research grants is September 3.  If you are interested, please apply soon.  The grant includes a $2,000 stipend.

Looking Inward – Examining Your Transfer Credit Evaluation Policy and Practice Impact

AACRAO Research has started formally offering the transfer credit evaluation policy and practice research as a fee-for-service. This comprehensive research approach enables us to replicate our work with ACE, the University of Arizona, and a consortium of universities and colleges in North Texas. The three research designs and foci are highlighted in this presentation. We will have a landing page for this service soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more, please email me

Registrar Career Profile 2021

Seven hundred fifty-one registrars responded to the 2021 career profile survey, and more than 20 provided personal essays about their careers. The report will be released to the membership in a few weeks. A sneak peek at some of the highlights of the data includes:

  • 43% have been in the position less than five years, almost the same as 2018 (42%)

  • 62% of the registrar positions in this sample require a master's degree

  • 56% of the registrar positions report through academic affairs; 19% report through enrollment management

  • The top three challenges as identified by respondents are:

    • Time to get things done

    • Inadequate financial resources

    • Keeping up with changing policy and regulation

Stranded Credits Part Two Comprehensive Survey

We will deploy an updated version of the stranded credits survey from 2020 to U.S. AACRAO primary contacts to support the Lumina Foundation debt and equity project. This survey will focus on institutional hold practices that stop students from registering, obtaining an official transcript, or both. Please keep an eye out for this survey, which will deploy on September 2 and be open through September 14. AACRAO will incentivize the study with a random drawing for twenty $25 virtual Starbucks gift cards. Your participation is greatly appreciated!

Debt and Equity Research Project Update

By the time this blog is posted, we will have shared the findings with the 14  institutional participants and surveyed them on various aspects of the project. We are interested in learning if either the process of identifying their institutional data, or the study findings, resulted in any changes in practice or policy. The convening is rescheduled to October 19 from the original date of September 15. This date change enables feedback to be incorporated. AACRAO will coordinate with Lumina to release the comprehensive report sometime after the convening. 

Re-envisioning Transfer Student Recruitment and Admissions

As part of the re-envisioning transfer initiative, we anticipate deploying a research project focusing on recruitment and admissions policy, practice, and staffing for transfer students before the end of October. This survey will be deployed to all AACRAO primary contacts and will be incentivized.

Recognition of Excellence in Supporting Transfer Student Success

I was fortunate to guide a group of amazing professionals on their work developing a rubric that will enable AACRAO to offer formal recognition to institutions who excel at their level of service to transfer students. I shared a preview of the recommendations and process at the transfer summit. The report from the workgroup will be released soon. Please see our re-envisioning transfer signature initiative page for more information if you did not receive a copy of the report in your email already.

Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics

New Resource from the Education Commission of the States

The new resource, which examines system barriers to education faced by Black, LatinX, American Indian students, and others, is now available. The policy brief identifies barriers impacting

  • College readiness

    • Access to Advanced Placement and college-level courses

    • Access to college counseling and advising

    • Ability to complete a FAFSA application

  • Transitions to college 

    • Access to types of degrees and degree levels

    • Student placement

  • Degree attainment 

    • Retention and completion

    • Student debt

It also provides policy questions to consider for each area.

Students Support Campus COVID-19 Vaccine and Mask Mandates

Education Dive summarized the findings of a recent survey by TimelyMD.  TimelyMD surveys more than 1,000 students the week of August 16, 2021.  Researchers found that 70% of students at institutions without mask mandates plan to wear masks. Students who attend institutions with mask and/or vaccine mandates support these measures (87% for mask mandates and 85% for vaccine mandates).  Some however reported that they submitted a fake vaccine card.

Trends in Faculty Roles at Universities

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) published its 2021 Findings on Faculty Roles in Decision-making Areas highlighting trends in faculty roles at universities. The findings focus on surveys performed in 1971, 2001, and 2021. Key findings include:

  • Faculty authority in academic decisions has increased over time (see figure from the report below).

  • Faculty authority in personal decisions, particularly tenure decisions and faculty searches, has increased (See figure from the report below).

  • Faculty authority in administrative decisions remained low in most areas, other than chair selection where it has increased (See figure from the report below).

College Business Officers Upbeat 

The Inside Higher Ed 2021 Survey of College and University Business Officers found that most business officers are confident about their institution's finances at this time. They report being more optimistic about their organization's finances than they have been in the past two years. More than three-quarters of business officers indicate that their institutions will be eliminating COVID-related operational changes in time for the fall 2021 semester. In addition, more than half of business officers anticipate that their institution will share administrative operations with another institution or combine academic programs in the next five years.

Incoming Freshmen are Mentally Exhausted

The annual Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement, administered by Indiana University's Center for Postsecondary Research, found that more than 50 percent of incoming first-year students are mentally and emotionally exhausted this year. The survey, administered between May and early August, included responses from 35,000 students. The survey will remain open through mid-September with the hopes of collecting up to 50,000 responses. Despite these findings, most students were optimistic about their first year in college. However, the survey noted a slight decline from May to August, which the authors partially attribute to the rise in the Delta variant.

Students not Concerned about Data Collected by their Colleges

Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse performed a survey of 2,286 college students regarding student perceptions about the data collected by colleges. Overall, about half of the students had some concerns or were very concerned about how technology companies handle their data. However, only about a quarter of students were concerned about how their institutions handle their data. The results are provided for a wide variety of data types and can be viewed by student demographic. In addition, a tool allows users to explore the questions and answers by student demographics.


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