On Thursday, Feb. 16 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union at the University of Maine, there was a “Think 30” Academic Affairs Faculty Forum that consisted of collaboration between faculty and administration of the university.
For a number of years now, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost has hosted a series of Academic Affairs Faculty Forums. These forums are “The forums were designed to create a venue for meaningful sharing of ideas about important initiatives in Academic Affairs. Collaboration between the faculty and administration of the university is essential if we are to advance toward our strategic goals. The forums are one venue for this collaboration,” according to their website.
Jeffrey Hecker, the vice president for academic affairs and provost of the University of Maine, led the Academic Affairs Faculty Forum on the progression and next step of the university’s Think 30 program. Think 30 is an initiative at the University of Maine that “encourages students to complete 30 credits per year, and aims to help students graduate in four years while saving money and reducing their debt,” the Maine Campus reported late last year.
“Student success equals getting them graduated,” Hecker said during the presentation. “Retention and graduation are really the part of what we’re going to focus on today,”
In the strategic plan of Think 30, administrators hope to improve student retention by 5 percent and improve the graduation rate by 10 percent.
In 2014, 65 percent of students earned 30+ credits during the academic year and in 2015, after the Think 30 initiative was implemented, the percentage of students to earn 30+ credits rose to 68 percent.
“While this data is encouraging, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Hecker said.
Some of less encouraging data showed the statistics of the University of Maine’s competitors and how much higher their graduation rates are. While UMaine’s graduation rate sits at 40 percent, other schools — like University of Connecticut — have a graduation rate as high as 70 percent. The University of Massachusetts has a rate 67 percent and University of New Hampshire 64 percent.
“When students don’t come here, the number one school they choose is University of New Hampshire,” Hecker said.
Complete College America is a nationwide, non-profit organization that works with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with college degrees. This year they used the University of Maine’s Think 30 program as an example of a best practice.
Hecker also talked about having default pathways for students. This would give students the opportunity to apply for the courses that they wanted, but if they don’t enroll in classes and make those decisions for themselves, they have a path that they can follow so that they can get to graduation and get a degree.
“We want students to be thoughtfully engaged in making their schedule, but if they don’t make those decisions, they have a path to fall back on so they can still graduate,” Hecker said.
Susan Hunter, the president of the University of Maine, also talked about updated information on the UMaine-University of Maine at Machias partnership. As of July 1, 2017, University of Maine Machias will be a regional campus of the University of Maine.
To extend the collaboration beyond the meeting or watch a recording of the video please visit umaine.edu/provost/academic-affairs-faculty-forums/.