Multi-semester registration encourages student planning

When registration opens March 23, students will find that when they select a semester of courses they have three options, summer, fall and spring. During their spring advising session, students will plan out their schedules a year in advance rather than one semester.

Registration in March will allow students to register for spring 2016 courses. The goal in pushing registration out to a year is to allow students to better plan ahead for what they need to take in order to graduate, said Jody Owen, academic advisor coordinator and director of the First-Year Advising Center.

“Seniors will have priority and then down to juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. Those processes won’t change at all. It’s just everybody gets to register a year out instead of a semester,” Owen said.

Students can continue to adjust their spring 2016 schedule through next fall, and can opt to wait until next fall to register for their courses, Owen said.

“We wanted to be in sync with other BOR schools…institutions that have implemented are seeing retention rates increase and students are a little more satisfied,” said Provost Laurie Nichols.

The main reasons for switching to multi-semester registration include student planning and department planning, Nichols said.

“One of the great benefits of the multi-semester … it will help students plan better… Students are more likely to complete their degree in a timely manner, which saves money,” Owen said.

The hope in multi-semester registration is that students will create a four-year plan and stick to that plan. This results in increased graduation rates as well as faster graduation times, Nichols said.

While the idea originally started forming last summer in a discussion about the best practices in higher education, the change did not go into motion until December Nichols said.

“There are always some bumps in the road…We typically give a little more lead time…If we do some kind of a pilot this spring we can see where the kinks are,” Nichols said.

The year-long registration process is not new to South Dakota or the Board of Regents schools. Dakota State University has followed year-long registration for several years and The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology recently made the switch. USD is currently changing its registration processes as well, Nichols said.

When making the decision and planning for how the process would work, comparisons to other universities helped, Nichols said.

Cleveland State University in Ohio changed to registering for a year’s worth of courses in 2012 and has proved a good source of information for what SDSU can expect, Nichols said.

In 2012, 60 percent of Cleveland State students participated in multi-semester registration. In 2013, this increased to 82 percent of students, according to information published by The Advisory Board Company in “Preventing Delays in Degree Progress.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see only 50 percent [the first semester],” Nichols said.

As of now, students are required to meet with their advisor each semester in order to lift the hold on their account to register. With the new system, new strategies will be put into place to catch holds during semesters that students are already registered, Nichols said.

“In our office we think it’s really important to meet once a semester…there may be a point where advising becomes optional but that will be on a department level. We need to make sure we are staying on top of it and communicating with each other and with students…” Owen said.

Not only will students have the opportunity to plan for graduation, but they can more easily plan ahead financially such as family and work, Owen said.

While tuition won’t be due until the semester arrives, a student can better predict their bill by adding up credit hours and known lab fees for the classes they are registered for, Nichols said.

Planning for courses and sections is another advantage to the multi-semester registration Owen said.

“It helps the departments plan better because they know where the demand is,” Owen said.

If a department can see that a section is filling up quickly, they have more time to assess that course and figure out if they need to add more sections to the course, Nichols said.

“The departments could do more planning…it wasn’t so last minute…we have a lot of last minute situations on this campus,” Nichols said.

With multi-semester registration, departments have the opportunity to see earlier on whether a class will meet the student requirement or not. This will help them either to recruit more students to keep the class or cancel in advance so students can make other plans, Nichols said.

One concern with planning for multiple semesters versus one is time availability for advisors with hundreds of advisees. Planning for more than one semester will take more time, Nichols said.

“I think group advising is a great strategy…it is very time effective,” Nichols said.

Some advisors meet with multiple students at once in order to have time to meet with all of their advisees. Having the opportunity to hear peers’ questions is an added benefit to group advising, Nichols said.

“It seems overly complicated and it’s going to confuse a lot of students…but it does sound like a good idea,” said Kendall Reyher, a junior horticulture major.

While the process is staying the same, Nichols expects to see some changes in advisor behavior and communication in order to adjust to planning a full year out.

The amount of planning involved in multi-semester registration has some students concerned.

“It will definitely be a concern if you change your major. That’s a lot of planning to go back and do if you are already a year ahead,” said Kelcy Schaunaman, junior agricultural business major.

Another concern is the quick turnaround of the change. “They definitely need to tell people,” Shaunaman said, “you need to know you need to be that prepared.”

Considering jobs and unplanned commitments could conflict with scheduling far in advance, said Aerial Wenzel, a sophomore pharmacy major.

“I think it’ll make it more difficult. You really have to consider a lot of aspects,” Wenzel said.

Students will receive an email informing them of the multi-semester registration option soon. The email will let them know of the benefits and ask them to plan accordingly for their upcoming advisor meetings. A brief Q&A is in progress and will appear on WebAdviser for students to reference as well, Nichols said.

“I think the nice thing from an advising standpoint it helps us advise on a continuum…” Owen said. “As we finesse it a little bit it’s going to make things better for faculty staff, students, departments and advisors as a whole.”