The Herald-Times
Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 11:46 am
By Jon Blau 331-4266 |

Faced with a lack of advisers to help students graduate on time or transfer to a four-year university with necessary credits, Ivy Tech has developed a new academic structure to guide students down career paths — aided by an automated online system.

The new structure, scheduled to begin next fall, splits the college’s academic programs into four categories, with a “university” or transfer-bound division broken off from three other study areas nearly as broad: health , business and public service, and technology and applied sciences. Students will not enroll as “undecided” but will instead have to choose a “meta-major” to begin completing prerequisites for two- or four-year degrees, including broad areas such as liberal arts, health sciences or science, technology, engineering and math, called “STEM,” for short.

While the state has recently passed legislation for state universities to create “degree maps” for students and to collaborate on general education classes for transfer, President Tom Synder said Ivy Tech’s plan has been three years in-process. The community college’s student body has grown, but the number of advisers has lagged behind. Ivy Tech, he said, has one adviser per 1,200 students enrolled, and, while students will still have an initial sitdown with an adviser when they choose their path, Ivy Tech hopes to have an automated system by the fall 2014 semester that will alert students to what classes they will need each semester and allow them to “self advise.”

Already under pressure from the state to graduate students “efficiently,” Snyder said this system should alleviate concerns that students aren’t taking the necessary courses to attain certifications and degrees or transfer credits in a timely fashion. In the transfer division, students looking to get into a four-year college can work through their sophomore year of accounting, criminal justice or pre-engineering, for instance, or they can sign-up under the liberal arts major and complete the “general education transfer core,” a set of 30 credits certified to transfer to schools across the state. “Undecideds” will have to start down one path or another, too. This fall, about 200 students on the Bloomington campus were undecided, according to Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter.

The new academic model at Ivy Tech will eliminate prerequisites of college algebra for many majors, Snyder said, because math has proven to be a giant hurdle for students but isn’t necessarily of practical use in their chosen field. In many programs in the technology and applied sciences division, for example, the college algebra math requirement has been dropped, and Snyder said they will instead take something more applicable to their field, such as qualitative reasoning or statistics.

Along with this new academic model, the community college has been in the midst of restructuring, potentially freeing up capital to hire more advisers, Snyder said. Part of the strategy could include early retirement offerings, which Snyder said could be offered to anywhere between 50 and 200 employees across the state. In Bloomington, 28 employees received email to gauge their interest in an early retirement plan.

Snyder estimated Tuesday that Ivy Tech needs another 200 to 300 employees to sufficiently lower the adviser-to-student ratio, but, “in lieu of” more advisers, Snyder said he wants to go the automated route. Fanter said the community college is developing the system to have it ready for launch with the new academic model in the fall of 2014.

The college has also folded the bursar’s and registrar’s offices into a “one stop” location for class sign-up. The community college will streamline the sign-up process for students — rather than making students visit five desks to complete the process, Snyder said — but it could also allow for the reassigning of personnel from those offices to advising roles.

More importantly, Snyder said the new system will “ease the burden” on adult students, in particular, who are too often taking classes that point more toward a transfer track rather than a two-year degree, because transferable classes are more popular. Time-constraints outside of the classroom, however, make it even harder for those people to reach their goals if they are taking unnecessary classes.

“They aren’t likely to finish with children , two jobs and the hurdles that come with that,” Snyder said.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.