Faculty helping struggling student

When students enroll at BYU-Idaho, they can expect to receive the right support to achieve their educational and occupational goals. Collaborative efforts have been underway for the past two years to help struggling students on their journey to success. These efforts are geared towards helping at-risk students have a successful college experience and reach graduation satisfied with their college education. 

The initial steps of this process began in 2017 and included a change in the academic standing policy. Along with the change in the policy, an invitation was extended to just over 1,900 students previously placed on academic suspension to return to school and receive added support, coordinated by academic advisors.

“BYU-Idaho has long been a place where the everyday student could succeed,” said Academic Advising Director Sam Brubaker. “One reason for the change was the unified desire to help more students. By inviting them to return, we had a second chance to help them in both their academic pursuits as well as their continued development as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

More than half of the students accepted the university’s offer to re-enroll and many of them have improved their GPA. Of those students invited to return, 1,271 came back to BYU-Idaho, and 529 have improved their GPA. By the end of Fall 2018, 129 of these students have since graduated, and 919 are still enrolled and working toward graduation.

“The portion of students we have seen succeed provides a vision of the potential this effort has for continued success. The successes also have shown there are still great opportunities to be gained by joint collaboration in the mentoring efforts across campus.”  Brubaker said.

In 2018, BYU-Idaho created a new program to help students who struggle academically. The creation of this model was a collaborative effort intended to provide a safety net for students who continually enroll in courses without the awareness of financial and academic repercussions. 

“Our goal is to create positive interventions that increase in oversight and involvement over time. The first sign of academic risk may only need a nudge of encouragement but eventually students will need required coaching to help increase the self-awareness and explore the best opportunities to meet their future goals. Whether a student decides to stay or leave the university, the ultimate goal is to help them find success,” Brubaker said.

Rather than placing students on academic probation or suspension, a new model places students into four tiers—each calling for a different degree of outreach.

The first tier flags students who begin to show signs that they may be at-risk of dropping out. These are the students who withdraw from or fail one or more classes in their previous semester. To assess how advisors and mentors can help curb the trend of low academic performance, these tier-one students are given a survey to gather initial data so advisors can best meet their needs.

A second-tier student is someone who has had more than a bad semester. These students have earned less than a 2.0 GPA for two consecutive semesters or have completely withdrawn from their last semester. To help them, these students are enrolled in an online course designed to help new or struggling students gain skills for success in college.

The third tier category focuses on freshmen, in particular any freshman with a 2.0 GPA or lower after their second semester. These students are referred to the Heber J. Grant Mentoring program, where they receive a personal student mentor’s help in addition to their academic advisor.

Any student that has taken more than 30 credits and earns less than a 2.0 GPA qualifies for fourth tier assistance. These students are contacted to meet with their full-time academic advisor and make a plan to achieve academic success. 

The hope is, by intervening early on, advisors, mentors, faculty, and staff can help more students persist to graduation, rather than drop out because they didn’t have the support to finish what they came to BYU-Idaho to accomplish.