Metrics to Shorten Students’ Time to Graduation

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: Mark Dawkins, Dean, Coggin College of Business 

In the wake of UNF’s poor showing on the BOG Performance Based Funding Metrics, some colleges are taking steps to increase student retention and shorten student’s time to graduation – the two metrics UNF has consistently scored the lowest on. However, at least one college has taken steps over time that education research shows do just the opposite. In the last few years, the Coggin College of Business has taken steps to materially lower their admission standards, significantly increase the number of part-time faculty teaching their courses, dramatically increase the number of their courses being taught online, and increase the number of faculty teaching overload assignments. Although they have increased their enrollments, education research demonstrates that less qualified students, those taught by part-time faculty, those taking online courses, and those being taught by faculty teaching overloads are more likely to drop out of their classes and take a longer time to graduate. If the administration is serious about increasing student retention rates and shortening student’s time to graduation, should not these decisions be reevaluated? Are the benefits in enrollments worth the costs to UNF in terms of lost funding and reputation due to lower student retention and higher times to graduation?

Answered by: Mark Dawkins, Dean, Coggin College of Business

The Coggin College of Business (CCB) has not lowered its admission standards, although CCB faculty has revised the graduate admissions policies. Nor has CCB significantly increased the number of part-time faculty teaching its courses. In fact, CCB hired five (5) new tenure-track faculty in Fall 2018. Additionally, CCB hired five (5) instructors in Fall 2018 (1 new hire, 2 visiting instructor hired as permanent instructors, and 2 adjunct instructors hired as permanent instructors).

CCB has increased the number of its courses being taught online, and this increase is not “dramatic” relative to the overall number of courses taught by CCB. CCB did increase the number of faculty teaching overload assignments in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to staff the Master of Science in Management (MSM) Program (about 200 new graduate students) and the Fidelity on-site MBA Program in 2018-19 (22 new graduate students), and the overload assignments have decreased with the addition of the five (5) new tenure-track faculty in Fall 2018. CCB started the MSM Program in the summer of 2016 with an agreement with AA to staff the classes with teaching overload assignments for two years, and based on enrollments, to hire two new tenure-track faculty in Fall 2018.

Math-Stat Department

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

  1. There is talk that Lev Gasparov, as part of his acceptance as Associate Dean of COAS, was granted approval for software that cost around $30,000 or more by Dean Rainbolt. Despite the fact that administrators do not have research programs, much less that this is an extraordinary amount to spend on one person’s request, how does the Dean justify this extraordinary expense?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. I place a high value on the transparent allocation of resources. The COAS Dean’s Office is happy to answer any questions about resource allocation.

In COAS, associate deans and the Dean are expected to maintain research programs. Of course, the level of research expected of associate deans and the dean is less than expected of other faculty.

In 2007, Lev Gasparov and Jay Huebner received a grant of approximately $850,000 from the Office of Naval Research. Approximately $320,000 was used to purchase a Raman spectrometer. (In Raman spectroscopy, a sample is hit with a laser and the light that is scattered back reveals information about the sample.)           Dr. Gasparov used the spectrometer to earn two NSF grants totaling approximately $275,000. Over his career at UNF, Dr. Gasparov has secured more than $1.5M in collaborative and sole PI external funding, has published 20 articles in the leading peer reviewed journals, and has mentored many students. This led to his being designated a Presidential Professor. The Naval Research grant and the two NSF grants alone have resulted in the award of more than $110,000 in indirects to UNF.

The spectrometer is eleven years old and requires new controller. If a new controller is not purchased, the spectrometer will become useless. The cost of the new controller and the controller’s software was $20,915. It was paid for as follows: Dr. Gasparov Summer Research Grant $4000, Physics $3,410, Academic Affairs: $4,000, COAS Sweep Funds: $9,505.

Originally, the Department of Physics was going to contribute approximately $8,000 for this project. The faculty of the Department of Physics discussed and approved the allocation of $8,000. However, Karla Calliste-Edgar used her outstanding budgeting skills to transfer some of this burden to the College’s sweep funds.

Sweep funds are funds allocated to departments, but not spent by the departments. At the end of each fiscal year, the unused funds are “swept” by the College. Then a call goes out to chairs for requests for the use of sweep funds. Last year, all sweep requests submitted by departments were funded before funds were allocated to Dr. Gasparov’s spectrometer. In the past two years, sweep funds have been used to support faculty in departments such as Music, Art, Communications, and Chemistry.

The expenditures on the Raman controller were a sound investment in a piece of equipment and a faculty member with an excellent record of research productivity.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

 

 

2. A new position was created in the Math-Stat department for a “Lower Course Coordinator.” This person is granted a course release which will cost the university around $18K a year. There was no need for this position as faculty in the department did this work for free. How does Dean Rainbolt justify this unnecessary expense?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. Course releases are an important resource and so it is important that they be allocated fairly and transparently. The COAS Dean’s Office is happy to answer any questions about resource allocation.

When he became Chair, Dr. Richard Patterson proposed a reorganization of the service roles in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Part of this reorganization included a Lower Division Programs Coordinator. This position comes with a release of one course per year and a stipend of $1,500. The University and the College is encouraging the Department to make significant changes to its lower-level courses. I agreed with Dr. Patterson’s view that these changes merited this additional service role and a course release.

The primary duties of the Lower Division Coordinator are to provide leadership, to maintain quality and consistency, and to coordinate improvement for all lower division mathematics and statistics courses. Specific duties are:

  • To foster consistency, the director sets the course syllabus for all lower division courses.
  • In consultation with faculty teaching the courses, the director determines common textbooks to be used for these courses.
  • The director provides regular guidance and oversight for adjuncts and GTAs who are teaching standalone courses.
  • The director assists the chair in optimizing the lower division course schedule.
  • The director coordinates and compiles assessment data at the end of a semester.

The cost of a one-course release varies depending on whether the course is three hours of four hours and on whether a course is canceled, covered by an adjunct, or covered with an overload. In this case, the course was covered by an adjunct at a cost of approximately $3,000. However, in future years, an overload may be required. In that case, the cost would be $6,000 or $8,000 depending on whether the course is three hours or four hours. Therefore, for this year, the cost to the University was approximately $4,500, not $18,000.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

 

3. It has been proven by UNF’s own data that the ALEKS Math Placement Test and Remediation software has a positive effect on increasing math ability. It is also known that success in mathematics classes directly correlates with graduation rates. Faculty members in the Math-Stat department tried last Spring to correct severe communication problems between administrative departments as well as help them provide the correct information to students. Despite their knowledge of the issues and their ability to quickly correct the problems had they been given the chance, faculty were admonished and even retaliated against by Dean Rainbolt and Interim Chair Gasparov. These problems still exist. If the University is so interested in increasing pass rates and lowering DFW rates in math, why are these faculty not supported? Also, since these issues have not been resolved and metrics are a University priority, who is willing to listen to the ALEKS implementation issues in an effort to resolve them?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. I appreciate your concern for helping our students increase their mathematical abilities. As you suggest, data from the UNF Office of Institution Research indicate that ALEKS placement test is a good predictor of the level of math course that is best for a student. For this reason, we have been using it more extensively than in the past.

I do not believe that there were any serious communications issues regarding the ALEKS test last spring. As with the roll out of any expansion of a program, there were some bumps along the way. However, overall reports that I have received were positive. I would particularly like to thank the Enrollment Services office. They graciously agreed to fund and manage the expanded ALEKS placement testing.

On October 4, when this question was asked, the Department of Math and Statistics was in the middle of reviewing how the ALEKS placement testing went this past year. They have since made some very helpful suggestions for improvement and I anticipate that many of those suggestions will be implemented for the class entering in Summer 2019.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

 

4. There is talk about changing the ALEKS Math Placement and Remediation from a proctored to an un-proctored test due to Enrollment Services not wanting to do the job. The point of having a proctored math test is to correctly identify and place students in the appropriate classes as well as provide them with 6 months of math remediation (at no cost to them). It has been shown that UNF students who spend only 5-10 hours in remediation can substantially increase their entrance scores as well as help them succeed in GE classes as it refreshes the math skills they learned in high school. This remediation positively affects departments in all colleges from accounting to nursing.

The Math Center Director resigned as the burden of testing was going to be placed solely on her shoulders. Given the concerns over DFWs, graduation rates and other metrics, and knowing how effective ALEKS is at UNF (even with its current haphazard implementation), why is the University not only not supporting full implementation of ALEKS so that it can help students (and UNF) succeed, but considering diminishing its effectiveness?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. I appreciate your concern for helping our students increase their mathematical abilities.

Data from the UNF Office of Institution Research indicate that ALEKS placement test is a good predictor of the level of math course that is best for a student. For this reason, we have been using it more extensively than in the past.

Proctoring a placement test is expensive and places a barrier to student enrollment. The UNF Writing Center has been successful using an unproctored placement test. Many other institutions use an unproctored math placement test.

The Director of the Math Center did step down because she found that the administrative burden of the Director position (including the supervision of math placement testing) was greater than she anticipated. She stepped down in a professional and helpful way. I am grateful for her service as Director of the Math Center and her help in smoothing her transition out of the Director position.

On October 4, when this question was asked, the Department of Math and Statistics was in the middle of reviewing how the ALEKS placement testing went this past year. They have since made some very helpful suggestions for improvement and I anticipate that many of those suggestions will be implemented for the class entering in Summer 2019.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

Endowed Professorships in the Coggin College of Business

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: Mark C. Dawkins, Dean of Coggin College of Business

Why is the administration awarding endowed Professorships with underfunded accounts? Since arriving Dean Marc Dawkins of the College of Business has offered five Professorships. However, despite a growing economy, within one year many were “underwater” meaning there were insufficient funds in the accounts to pay the agreed upon Professorship stipend. To address the problem the administration required recipients to sign new award letters agreeing to a reduction in their future stipends should the accounts remain “underwater” following a new policy. Although agreeing to fund the stipends for one additional year, some recipients stand to lose a significant portion or all of their awards. One faculty member who inquired was told by Dean Marc Dawkins, “any CCB endowed professor can rescind his/her acceptance of an endowed professorship at any time, so please let me know if you want to do so…” Why is the administration underfunding professorships? What happened that these faculty members stand to lose their awards? How does underfunded professorships help enhance research at UNF?

Response by Dean Dawkins:

CCB Dean Mark Dawkins awarded five Professorships in spring 2017, and the university subsequently changed its underwater accounts policy in Fall 2017. This policy change rendered several long-term and new Professorship accounts “underwater” for 2018-2019, and their operating accounts had insufficient balances to pay the planned stipends. The CCB Dean’s Office fully funded all underwater stipends in 2018-2019.

 

CCEC Communications Consultant Process

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: Earle Traynham, Interim Provost Academic Affairs

Why is the university expending funds on a consultant to assist the dean of CCEC to better communicate? Is it true that some faculty members and academic administrators in CCEC were not invited to meet with this communications consultant? And if so, why weren’t they included in the process?”

 

Written response from Earle Traynham, Interim Provost & Vice President, Academic Affairs:

1. Why are the University expending funds on a consultant to assist the Dean of CCEC to better communicate?

Response: Effective communication is critical in any organization, as it is in any relationship.  An experienced consultant was engaged because we (President Delaney and I) believe there are opportunities to improve communication, and doing so should have a positive outcome.  In short, it seems like the right thing to do. President Delaney has used this particular consultant at various times over the past 15 years.

2. Is it true that some faculty members and academic administrators in CCEC were not invited to meet with this communication consultant?

Response: Although I have not had any input into this part of the process, it is my understanding that the communication consultant worked with the dean to identify a group of individuals to invite to provide input.  I have learned from the dean that sixteen individuals were invited.  Additional names were suggested by President Delaney to supplement that list, and those spoken to have suggested additional names. This will be an iterative process.

 

3. If so, why weren’t all included in the process?

Response:   See 2 above.