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Project Title:Facilitating On-Time Completion: The Sycamore Graduation GuaranteeInstitution Name:Indiana State University Innovation Category:Retention/Completion Project Director:Dr. Susan Powers, Associate Vice President Academic AffairsContact Information:(812) 237-2307, susan.powers@indstate.eduWebsite:http://www.indstate.edu/express/guarantee.htm
Project Description:

Indiana State University has created a 4-year graduation guarantee for students enrolling in fall 2012 and beyond. The guarantee assures eligible students they will be able to complete a bachelor's degree within 4 years. If not, they will be able to take remaining courses tuition free. The guarantee is part of the university’s commitment to keeping college affordable for students and will also help ensure a quicker launch for their careers.

The Sycamore Graduation Guarantee outlines the responsibilities of students and of the university that are necessary to achieving on-time graduation. Improving student success is a top priority in the university's strategic plan. To take advantage of the guarantee, students must sign a contract during their freshman year. If they meet their commitments under the contract and find themselves unable to graduate in four years, the university will cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for any remaining required courses.

The guarantee applies to all programs of 128 semester hours or less. Student requirements under the terms of the guarantee include, but are not limited to:

  • Meet with an advisor to develop an appropriate course plan 
  • Declare and be admitted to a major by the start of the sophomore year
  • Complete 30 to 32 semester hours each year and meet all degree requirements
  • Monitor his or her progress and notify advisors if unable to register for a required course
  • Apply for graduation by October 1 of their senior year.

The university's responsibilities under the Sycamore Graduation Guarantee include:

  • Provide access to quality advising throughout a student's time at Indiana State 
  • Provide tools that enable students to monitor progress toward degree completion
  • Substitute a different course or independent study, when appropriate
  • Pay tuition and mandatory fees for any additional required courses if course substitution is not an option.

The university will work with students who fall behind schedule due to extenuating circumstances, such as financial constraints or a change of majors.

Objectives:
  • Increase the 4-year graduation rate. The ISU strategic plan details these benchmarks.
  • Identify and address curricular barriers that may prevent a student from completing a program of study in 4 years.
  • Provide regular communication to students regarding academic progress and status.
  • Develop systemic program planning and advising that address and balance student academic goals and financial realities.
  • Modify the affordability discussion to include student and institutional responsibilities.
Outcomes:

This program becomes effective with the Fall 2012 matriculating class and is being launched as of June 1, 2012 with New Student Orientation.

  • Curricular assessments and analytics indicate decreased barriers (i.e. sufficient numbers of required courses are offered without time conflicts).
  • Student and advisor use of the 4-year planning tool increases.
  • Student communication with advisors increases. 

Challenges/Problems Encountered:Four year curriculum plans had to be created and/or revised within a short period prior to New Student Orientation so that 4-year plans matched the catalog copy instead of departmental practice. Advisor training was necessary to help ensure that advisors could answer questions about the 4-year guarantee and understand the process on how to use the 4-year plans.  We are in the process of resolving challenges related to communication with students (we are exploring the use of Talisma software to manage the communication) and the implementation of a software solution (to balance the quick turnaround needed for implementation with functionality and existing software tools and SIS).
Evaluation Approach:We are at the outset of this project and the evaluation approach has not been fully defined. Academic Affairs will coordinate the evaluation and we will rely on software tools to provide much of the data (i.e., Platinum Analytics currently in process of implementation and UDirect which may be the selected 4-year planning tool).
Potential for Replication:The potential for replication at other institutions is great. However, institutions would need to reconcile their own parameters of the contract (e.g. we do not include programs over 128 credit hours), existing software tools and their compatibility with managed communication and 4-year planning software. Finally, if a program is too rigid, a 4-year plan and guarantee becomes difficult to implement for a student who might need remedial work or selects a major after matriculation. Institutions have to balance how to make the program reasonable without placing so many limitations on it such that no one is able to participate.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Dr. Daniel J. Bradley , Presidentpresident@indstate.edu
(812) 237-4000
Date Published: Monday, June 18, 2012