The Right Classes

Colleges across the country are lately starting to get concerned about their graduation rates. At least in Tennessee funding for state universities has actually been tied to graduation rates and student retention since 1997. But colleges still couldn’t move the graduation rates up much. Maybe that had something to do with the courses students were taking.

So now the state’s working on a new project to help improve college graduation by helping students make better decisions about what courses to take. According to an article by Chas Sisk in The Tennessean:

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is hoping to expand a program that steers college students into classes they are likely to do well in as part of a new plan to boost graduation rates across the state.

Haslam announced Monday that the state will use a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to extend an Austin Peay State University program that uses computer programs to predict students’ grades and help select their classes to three other campuses.

Students in the existing Austin Peay State University program become part of a computer program that uses past grades, and major requirements, to determine which courses students should take in order to successfully complete college on time. The program, which uses a feature called the Adaptive Advising Tool, essentially replaces a faculty advisor with a computer program. That seems a little impersonal but if it works, well, why not move forward?

Except it’s not really clear that it does. Despite Haslam’s eagerness to expand the program to more state universities it doesn’t appear that Austin Peay’s graduation rate (now 31 percent) is much higher than it was before the school instituted the computer advising program.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer