New standard demands stricter GPA requirements
Buildings and parking lots aren’t the only things going up in the fall semester. Academic standards are rising as well.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Oldham explained that though standards are changing, they aren’t as much rising as transferring.
“Really we’re just moving the target for student academics from the junior year down to the sophomore year,” he said.
The requirement has been that students must have a 2.0 by their 90th hour for graduation. Under the new system, that 2.0 must be achieved at the end of the freshman year instead of the end of the junior year.
“It really allows them to make the progress they need to in order to be ready for graduation,” Oldham said. “ And, hopefully, it will prevent situations like we have now where a student comes to their senior year and there’s no way they will have that GPA in time, so they’re left with debt and they might have to extend their education a year or two more.”
The idea for this change started with the faculty, who are in the classrooms with students and understand how grades affect the student’s future college career.
Oldham said, “This was primarily a faculty-driven issue, and they made a recommendation and I affirmed it, so it’s going into play this fall. We began conversations in Academic Affairs but at the same time, or really before that, the faculty assembly took a look at our academic standing, and they had been discussing it for a little while about increasing it.”
He said there were two reasons for changing the requirements – the federal government and earlier student notification. The government changed the standard for financial aid to a 2.0 last year, so it provided a good time for the university to change its standard as well.
In addition to the financial aid requirement change, moving the standard to the sophomore year offers students a better chance at being successful in their educational career.
“It’s very difficult for someone to raise their GPA a significant amount once they have amassed a large number of hours already,” Oldham said. “It’s kind of like a major league hitter who’s got a low batting average in the first couple of weeks of the season. No big deal as long as they can start hitting well. But if you have a low batting average in the last couple of weeks of the season, you’re not going to raise it hardly at all. (It) doesn’t matter how many times you go to bat.”
Senior marketing and management double major Clayton Giraudin believes the new requirements will be beneficial for the university and anticipates what the changes will look like for students.
“Even though I am graduating, I feel as though this is an important step in the university becoming the choice Baptist school for central Texas,” he said.
Giraudin believes students should be held to the standard required for graduation while they are at UMHB.
He said, “I like the idea that it will be required for the students to maintain at least a 2.0 throughout their time here.”
Junior biblical studies major Aaron Massey supports the changes as well.
“I believe they will increase the level of academic rigor and will help the students develop necessary skills to study early in their college experience,” he said. “I believe it will help the university have stronger students with better training, thinking and writing skills and more confidence in their ability. Perhaps it will attract stronger students from high school, and it will persuade those not sure about college to choose another.”
The new standards won’t affect the colleges or faculty other than awareness of intervening for students earlier. The changes also aren’t requiring students to rise to a higher level.
“Seriously what does it mean?” Oldham said. “It means some students will go on probation earlier than they would have otherwise, and we might have some students who will therefore go on suspension earlier. That would be the greatest effect on students.”
The desire is not to increase the number of people on probation or suspension but to encourage students to take academics seriously.
Oldham said, “I’m hopeful that instead of having more students go on suspension, we will have more students who are just made aware of problems earlier in their career and will be able to fix them. It will be less likely that a student will come here their freshman year and not pay attention to academics. You need to pay attention to academics right away.”
The administration is getting ready to implement the changes in the fall.
Students have been emailed about the new standards, and those who might be in trouble will be contacted again.
“We’ll send out letters in a few weeks to those students who are borderline to let them know you’re on good academic progress right now but when you come in the fall, you’re under a new standard. It’s going to get the students more interested in academic progress,” Oldham said.
He hopes moving the required 2.0 from junior to sophomore year will be beneficial to everyone affected for multiple reasons.
Oldham said, “Hopefully this will lead to higher graduation rates and lower debt for students. We’re looking forward to the changes, and we think it will be beneficial to our students.”