‘Fly in 4’ nears benchmark in planned implementation

With 82 percent of eligible students signed up, the university has made plans for increased advising questions.

One of President Theobald’s largest initiatives since taking office is coming to a major mile marker after seven months of preparation. ‘Fly in 4,’ an initiative focused on raising four-year graduation rates and lowering student debt, is approaching the first cutoff for those looking to sign up for the agreement.

The university reported Monday that  82 percent of eligible students, or 3,962,  signed up for the agreement so far with the final deadline being the end of next week.

The initiative was announced on Feb. 3 as a program that would offer $4,000 scholarships to 500 students in each incoming class beginning this semester. Additionally, students who signed the agreement will be provided with eight-semester schedule plans and if they are delayed due to scheduling conflicts, the university will pay the cost of the remaining credits.

University administrators said they aim to have the initiative help raise the four-year graduation rate from its reported 43 percent to 50 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 39 percent of Temple’s 2007 cohort graduated in four years.

The 2007 cohorts of other state-related schools, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, had four-year graduation rates of 65 and 64 percent, respectively. At the University of Pennsylvania, 88 percent of the 2007 cohort graduated in 2011.

However, Temple’s four-year and six-year graduation rates have been on the rise.

“[Historically] we outperform our expected graduation rate,” said Jodi Levine Laufgraben, vice provost for academic affairs and assessment. “We’re hoping, because people were hearing about Fly in 4 and Temple, that maybe they think, ‘Wow, Temple’s a place that’s doing things.’”

In order to aid the large amount of students who signed the agreement, university administrators said automated programs are being upgraded. TUportal has already had the “next steps” tool installed, which includes checkpoints for those who signed the agreement to fulfill all their requirements on time.

Additionally, the Degree Audit Reporting System, an automated program run through TUportal that makes personalized summaries of students’ progress, will be upgraded in the coming months, university administrators said.

The annual undergraduate and graduate bulletin will additionally be upgraded. As opposed to the old bulletin that was in PDF form, the new version will use more user-friendly software called Course Leaf. Laufgraben said that as part of Fly in 4, colleges were asked to re-examine their eight-semester schedule plans.

With these upgrades, Laufgraben said, the university can automatically keep students aware of what they need to do to graduate in four years and uphold the agreement.

“I think Fly in 4 gives [students] some guidelines on how to ask and how to think about their own path, their own choices,” said Susan McCaffrey, assistant director of student services at Ambler Campus and advising and disability coordinator.”

However, advisers will still keep tabs on a student. Students who signed the agreement will also be required to consult with an adviser once a semester.

In order to keep up with the large influx of students expected to be looking for advising, the university has hired 60 new advisers since 2006. A university spokesman said the total number of advisors is between 105 and 110, a ratio of roughly 300 students per advisor.

According to a 2011 national study by the National Academic Advising Association, the national median numbers of students per advisor for a university with similar enrollment to Temple was 600. However, the report warns that “these survey responses reflect important data, but they do not inform an ideal or recommended case load for advisers.”

Laufgraben added that unlike similar initiatives at other universities and colleges, Fly in 4 does not require students to stick to the same major they had when they signed the agreement, as long as they can still graduate in four years. In this case, students will be able to meet with their advisers to make a new plan, Laufgraben said.

Marcus McCarthy can be reached at marcus.mccarthy@temple.edu and on twitter @MarcusMcCarthy6.

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