Board of Trustees plan to take closer look at gateway courses 2018-19 school year


Story by: News Director elect Emily Morris

Seeking avenues for improving student success rates will be a hot topic in oncoming school years, according the the Board of Trustees who met Monday April 9.  This most centrally relates to Oakland’s graduation rates; since 2009 four-year graduation rates have doubled to over 30 percent. Our university is still unsatisfied with that figure and have made plans for further improvement for students. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost  James Lentini suggests a decrease in the advisor to student ratio to guide students more effectively. As of now, there are 434 students to each advisor. Oakland’s goal is to lower that to 300 students to each advisor.

In turn, the availability of advisors is planned to minimize Oakland’s DFWI rates, which refers to the percent of students who receive a D, F, withdrawal or incomplete in a “gateway course.” Gateway courses are usually categorized as introduction courses that relate to a major.

“Your chances to succeed in a in that specific major you might be seeking is severely hammered,” Lentini said.

At Oakland, 19 percent of courses result in at least 20 percent of the class earning a DFWI grade.  Among the most troubling classes was Biology at over 20 percent and Calculus at over 30 percent. The majority of students who experience a DFWI grade are forced to retake a class, which sets them behind in graduating within four years. These challenges are a major factor in Oakland’s student success.    

“The idea is not to make the courses easier,” Lentini said. “The idea is to teach the courses differently.”

In hopes of improving the quality of education, Michigan has increased our funding by 3.1 percent, based on academic performance. According to the Oakland University’s Board of Trustees, this will not be a large enough increase though. In fact, Oakland University receives roughly 5.5 percent of Michigan’s allotted 50 million dollars. Additional funding is then drawn from our tuition.  

Rising tuition rates and DFWI rates are drastically affecting students’ ability to graduate in four years. Although creating timely graduation is a central goal of Oakland’s, some believe there is not enough tools to make this a universal possibility.

“It seems like you [Oakland’s Board of Trustees] would like to increase retention and the efficiency of a student getting a four-year degree,” said 2018 Matilda R. Wilson award winner and transfer student Carley Austin. “Students are repeating courses that are already completed at other institutions at a high rate.  Students could have completed their degree in three years instead of four.”

Because many transfer students take three-credit courses from other schools, Oakland’s majority four-credit courses serve as a bump in the road.  It was encouraged that Oakland is currently working to improve the educational environment for all students. There are specific goals set that will gradually improve the quality of Oakland which include funding, graduation rates and course difficulty.