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Degree Requirements revamps audit process

Missing a class? Short a few credits? There are students who are not going to graduate when they anticipated due to such problems. The office of degree requirements is launching a new system to fix that dilemma this fall.

“We’ve seen the gnashing of teeth and the wringing of hands of our students, we had to fix it,” said Agnes Hoffman, director of admissions and records.

The Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) will hopefully help prevent students from coming up short at what they think is the very end of their academic careers.

Hoffman said that the University has been aware of this issue for some time. Angela Garbarino, supervisor of degree requirements and veteran certification, said that there has been work on the issue of degree requirements for five years, with three years of consistent work devoted to topic.

Hoffman said that they have working on DARS and will be implementing it University-wide in fall of 2002.

DARS is a system that automatically computes undergraduate students’ academic profiles. The system shows what the student has taken and calculates what credits and courses remain for the student.

Currently, students typically apply for graduation, and the office of degree requirements runs a manual audit. That audit shows what is left for the student to take in order to graduate. Sometimes these audits are returned too late for the students to effectively respond to any surprises they might hold.

Garbarino said that when students apply for graduation it is assumed that the students are ready to graduate, but that this is not always the case.

“We won’t have to wait. We can track students at any point in their academic career,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said that they are hoping in the process of using DARS that the students will connect with their advisors earlier.

Hoffman said the implementation of the University Advising Initiative would help things with DARS come together. Hoffman said it is up to the students and that there is no reason not to see an advisor.

“Students don’t know until it is too late,” Hoffman said. “It’s sad that students think that they are graduating and then they aren’t. Life plans are disrupted when they are surprised.”

The university is still operating on the old deadlines for graduation, but Hoffman said that later the deadlines might be extended due to the new system.

Hoffman said that DARS is a software system bought from the University of Miami Ohio. The system was purchased as a part of a Title III grant.

“When you buy the software you program it. You basically buy the concept,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman stressed that the programming is a very comprehensive process.

She said DARS was chosen because of its flexibility and the way it could be customized.

Once DARS is implemented, the office of degree requirements will put each department’s individual requirements into the computer. The department then will check to see if the requirements are accurate. The faculty of the departments are then to “sign off” on the system.

Hoffman said the “sign off” essentially means that the faculty in the various departments trust the computer.

Garbarino said most departments are already automated.

Hoffman said that there is an estimated 70 departments in the University, including minors and certificate programs. She also pointed out that University enrollment is 26 percent larger than the enrollment when work started on this project.

Garbarino said that even with the new system the computer would do not everything. There will still be manual overrides for students with special circumstances. For instance, students who began college prior to Fall 1994 will not be in the new system. The system is set up for students who are involved in University Studies. This includes transfer students.

Garbarino pointed out that students who started school prior to University Studies would still be able to check their specific departmental information through DARS.

Garbarino said the response rate should increase for all students at Portland State.

There is another new system at the University at work trying to help out students. The Course Applicability System (CAS) is available to help transfer and new students determine what classes they should take even before their first day of classes at Portland State University.

CAS was activated in January this year.

The system is targeted to transfer students, especially from community colleges.

Hoffman said that they have been trying to get community colleges to use CAS and feel comfortable using it as an advising tool.

CAS is also produced by the University of Miami, Ohio.

Hoffman said the system is free and students are able to access via the Web on the admission Web page. It helps students to determine their credits and courses before they come to the University.

Hoffman said graduate students would also someday have an automated system to check their academic progress. The office of graduate research is in charge of its own program.