FYE to undergo major overhaul — or disappear

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FYE to undergo major overhaul — or disappear

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Each Fall Semester, Baldwin Wallace offers FYE courses for incoming first-year students that transition students into the college life while developing critical thinking skills that benefit their academics.

However, due to budget cuts and consideration from faculty and staff, actions arose regarding the FYE courses.

Provost Stephen Stahl said due to the decrease in enrollment, the funds for FYE have been an issue.

“Since 80 percent of our budget comes from funding related to tuition and room-and-board for full-time undergraduate students, we have to look at how we’re spending our money,” said Stahl.

He also said the financials of the course will not be the ultimate deciding factor in FYE’s future.

“It’s not just to not spend money because if we come up with a way that works it should increase retention, which makes money. We don’t want the budget situation to completely drive the solution,” said Stahl.

As the reviewal of financials takes place, Academic Chair of FYE committee, Debra Janas, said discussion for revamping FYE occurred before the announcement of the budget cut.

“We’ve been looking at revising FYE over the past year,” said Janas. “Over the summer we were informed that our budget was being cut.”

After being informed about the budget cut, she said the action forced the committee to act upon the changes.

Though budget cuts influenced the decision to improve FYE, a series of focus groups and surveys with faculty and staff to find out their perspectives on the FYE format occurred before the cuts, said Janas. The result to revise the course showed an “overwhelmingly” large number of faculty and staff that wanted the change, she said.

“Faculty had the choice to keep FYE in the same format, revise the transition and academic components, or revise the transition component and eliminate the academic component,” said Janas. “We only had a handful of people that wanted to keep it in the same format.”

Though the majority of faculty and staff voted for a change, Janas said the “goal was keeping the students at the front and center.”

Not only did faculty and staff influence FYE’s change, but Stahl said questions arose with FYE because currently, no determining factor completely measures FYE’s success in helping to retain students.

“All of the other programs we have out there, we can assess as to their efficacy because we can identify a group that’s taking the program and a group that isn’t,” said Stahl. “In FYE, everybody takes the program, so we can’t evaluate whether it’s working or not.”

Though some ways to determine FYE’s educational impact exist, Janas said the assessment comparisons have been “inconsistent” over the last few years.

On Oct. 31, the FYE committee met to finalize the proposal for FYE’s future and all that the program will entail before sending the proposal for final review.

Janas said several changes to the FYE course were considered.

The proposal implements a 2+1 program, where students obtain two academic credits in the fall semester and one credit in the spring semester, said Janas.

“One of the first things we wanted to do was make it a true first-year experience,” said Janas. “The Fall would still be a two-credit course that would have some defined topics that are identified to best meet what’s best for what’s happening for the current population that’s coming into our schools.”

Janas said a few elements in the proposal include wellness, diversity, and career planning.

Janas said in some departments, students don’t see the advisor after the FYE course until the following Fall semester, so the new proposal will establish a way for students and advisors to keep in touch.

“We are proposing a dual advisor/mentor kind of process where the FYE instructor would be in that role of a touch-point for students. In the spring, the idea is to still have the check-in points,” said Janas. “It wouldn’t be formal class meeting times, but individual check-ins, small groups, or online meetings. That FYE instructor would still have that contact with students into the spring.”

Regardless of what the future model holds, Stahl said FYE’s outlook would have two options.

“This is our model going forward, going up or going out,” said Stahl. “Either the model goes through, or we pull FYE from an academic course.”

Janas said on Nov. 4, the committee presented the proposal to the Core Committee. The plan reviewal currently takes place.

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