As part of the CSU Graduation Initiative, the SuperSenior Project was designed to decrease the large numbers of seniors who continued to amass baccalaureate units but never seemed to move toward earning a degree and graduation. The project began with collecting data on the numbers of students who had more than 140 units (the Cal State Northridge bachelor’s is typically 120 units/credits), but had failed to file for graduation, a process expected to occur one year prior to graduation. Analysis initially identified both the causes of the problem and the academic majors in which the problem was most pronounced. A series of policy revisions and stricter enforcement of existing policies created solutions, the most effective of which stop a student from registering for classes until the required action is taken. After the first year, the cutoff was lowered from 140 to 130 units in order to identify SuperSeniors earlier and encourage them to focus on timelier graduation and course/program planning.
Institutional policy changes included in this initiative included:
- A hold on a SuperSenior’s ability to register for the next semester’s classes until completion and filing of a graduation check with Admissions and Records. This program has reduced the number of students with more than 130 units by 52.5% over three years. The number of students with more than 140 units decreased 56.6% over the same period.
- Limiting the number of courses students can repeat over their academic career at CSUN and the number of times a given course can be repeated. The campus has also limited the ability to enroll in a course for purposes of repeating until just days before the start of classes, when almost no seats are available. The number of courses enrolled in for repeats decreased by almost 2,500 from Fall 2008 through Fall 2010.
- Decreasing the number of units available for Financial Aid from 180 to 150. Additionally, imposing strict rules for Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), and reducing and limiting the grounds (and approval) for SAP appeals. The number of appeals filed went from 1,500 in 2008 (almost all of them granted) to 162 at the end of Spring 2011 (when 60 percent were approved and 40 percent denied).
- Limiting the number of majors and minors a student can have (to two each) and defining points at which a major or a minor cannot be changed or added.
- Administratively graduating students who accumulate over 140 earned units if they have completed all degree requirements and a major, whether or not they have declared that major. Over the last two years, 38 students have been graduated administratively.
All of these policies have appeals processes in place. In every instance, the number of appeals has decreased over time.
Moving students to timely graduation is an on-going process. Two additional policy changes are being considered for adoption by faculty governance bodies, and could take effect in Fall 2012.
- The first requires all students to attempt the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE) no later than the semester in which they complete 75 units/credits. (Passage of the exam is required for graduation, with no exceptions permitted.) Failure to attempt the exam stops the student from registering for the next semester’s classes. This requirement allows early identification of CSUN students who need help to pass and directs them to an appropriate intervention.
- The second requires that First Time Freshmen be continuously enrolled in their required mathematics and English courses until completion of the General Education requirement for both. We found that too many students complete their one or two semesters of developmental math and/or writing but then delay enrolling in the General Education requirement for a year or more. Particularly in mathematics, the students who delay completion forget what they have learned and cannot finish the freshman requirement.
The offices of Institutional Research, and Admissions and Records in Academic Affairs work together to track the success of the changes, as noted above. Problems are most often highlighted/uncovered through anecdotal evidence, which can then be addressed.