Reimagining degree progression

September 22, 2019
  • Degree Audit
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • Pathways
  • Records and Academic Services
  • Webinars
cartoon figure standing at the beginning of a twisting path

There’s a growing and often unrecognized problem in higher ed today: colleges and universities presenting structural barriers to students that slow down their degree progression or sometimes stop it entirely. A given university’s schools and departments are often run in silos, making them difficult to navigate within -- let alone across. Indeed, college itself has also become more complicated, with an exciting but often bewildering array of expectations and options. For example, students choose from more than 250 majors at some schools , and  one in 10 undergraduates participate in study abroad programs and more than half participate in an internship , resulting in credits that may or may not count towards their degree.  

What’s getting in the way of degree progression?

Fundamentally, many students take either insufficient credits at a time or accrue too many credits. Some of this is driven by changing majors, which about a third of students pursuing associate’s or bachelor’s degrees do at least once. Increasing interest in certain majors and subjects exacerbates the challenge: for example, despite massive increases in the number of computer science majors nationwide and demand for computer science courses by non-CS majors, the number of tenured faculty in the subject has not risen accordingly. As a result, students are left in the lurch. 

What can schools, and specifically registrars,  do about it?

Ultimately, the pathway to a degree -- let alone a career -- is unstructured and confusing at best, and nearly impossible to attain at worst. Registrars have a crucial role to play in improving the student experience and ensuring students don’t get lost on the way to graduation. Many schools are finding they must rethink the structure and support systems provided by their institutions so that students can take control of their own degree progression. This requires schools to be proactive, flexible, and to consider the student experience more holistically. 

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is empowering its students to envision their future and plot a course toward their goals. Longtime CMU Registrar John Papinchak maintains student records and degree certification for all students from admission through graduation -- a job that has gotten more complex as the number of degrees, majors, minors, and courses have skyrocketed. Papinchak is beginning to examine how data analytics can help his team forecast demand for courses, which he can share with the different schools and departments, so they can plan ahead to support students and fulfill their degree needs.

Learn more

Join us on October 10 at 10 am PT, 1pm ET for a discussion about how schools can better support students in their degree progression. John Papinchak, CMU Registrar, will join Stellic in discussing how CMU is approaching degree progression in novel ways and what steps your school can take to improve student experience. Register for the webinar here.



AACRAO's bi-weekly professional development e-newsletter is open to members and non-members alike.