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Getting Probationary Students Back on Track Rachael Switalski, Advising/Tracking Specialist, Title III Dr. Bob Shackleford, Vice President for Student Development. RCC Mission Statement

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Getting Probationary Students Back on TrackRachael Switalski, Advising/Tracking Specialist, Title IIIDr. Bob Shackleford, Vice President for Student Development


RCC Mission Statement

The mission of Rockingham Community College is to enhance individual and community success in Rockingham County through education as well as full development of human potential, employment assistance, service to business and industry, and contributions to cultural and social development.

Rockingham Community College

the challenge of at risk students

The Challenge of At-Risk Students

Dealing proactively with students having academic difficulty is a challenge at any college, but especially in the community college, where there is an “open admissions” policy and at-risk students are not screened out in the admissions process.

contributing factors

Contributing Factors

Factors that greatly contribute to students’ academic difficulty include:

Peer culture

College environment

Academic major/Career choice

Study habits

Faculty contact/advising


Personal motivation

Quality of effort

Self-efficacy/Perceived control

[How College Affects Students, Pascarella and Terenzini]

standard interventions

Standard Interventions

It is tempting to simply identify the students who are not meeting the academic standards, warn them (Academic Probation), and then drop them (Academic Suspension) if they do not adequately improve.

However, the mission of the community college is to do more than that – to do all we can do to help facilitate student success.

standard interventions1

Standard Interventions

It is also tempting to simply redirect them into programs and careers that are less rigorous academically, thereby lowering our expectations of them in an effort to help them succeed.

However, the mission of the community college is not to water down the curriculum to make it easy, but to lift our students up to achieve more than they thought they could achieve.

a better way

A Better Way

At Rockingham Community College, we wanted to develop an intervention procedure that:

Would really make a difference in the student’s academic performance.

Was systemic in its approach, dealing with the student’s comprehensive challenges, not just a “study skills” approach.

Applied our resources and best efforts to student success.

Made the student fundamentally responsible for his/her own academic performance.

funding our ideas

Funding our Ideas

A Title III grant helped us obtain the resources we needed to begin to address this important priority.

staffing for success

Staffing for Success

We hired an Academic Assistance Advisor, with the primary duty to work with at-risk students on a one-on-one basis.

staffing for success1

Staffing for Success

We hired a Developmental/Learning Communities Coordinator, with the additional responsibility to assist the Academic Assistance Advisor in working with at-risk students.

putting the plan to work

Putting the Plan to Work

Together, we developed a program of personal intervention, focusing on students who are most at risk – those who have been placed on Academic Probation.

first contact
First Contact

Rockingham Community College

  • Student is flagged for probation at the end of a semester.
  • Student receives letter from Vice-President for Student Development explaining conditions of probation.
  • Student is contacted by Academic Assistance Advisor at the start of the following semester by phone, email, and email to faculty member.

Rockingham Community College

initial appointment
Initial Appointment

Rockingham Community College

Frankly discuss the student’s situation:
    • Calculate the GPA to help the student understand WHY it is important and the seriousness of the situation.
    • The possibility of suspension and what that means.
    • How the student got in this situation.
    • What the student is going to change this semester.

Rockingham Community College

Student Contract
    • Put the ideas of what went wrong and what they will change into writing.
    • Affirm that they understand the required minimum GPA for the semester to avoid suspension.
    • Sign up for study skills workshops.
      • If the student is unable to make study skills workshops, refer the student to videos that are available in the library with discussion questions for the next meeting.
    • Put goals into writing.

Rockingham Community College

  • Use the ‘what went wrong’ section to recommend counseling, computer labs, Math and English labs, and specific study skills workshops.
  • Use the goals the student wrote down to talk to the student about career counseling.
  • Use the contract as a discussion point at each meeting – to continue to remind the student of the changes they committed to make.

Rockingham Community College

study skills workshops
Study Skills Workshops
  • The original idea for these workshops came from a presentation by Susan Austin at Johnston Community College at the 2006 NCCCFA conference.
  • Six workshops – offered once a week in the middle of the semester.
  • Faculty members volunteer time to do workshops.
  • RCC Foundation grant to provide refreshments.
  • Workshops are open to all students – some faculty give extra credit.

Rockingham Community College

study skills workshops continued
Study Skills Workshops (continued)
  • What do I do to facilitate the workshops?
    • Apply for the grant for refreshments, order the food & deliver it.
    • Reserve a room.
    • Recruit faculty members for workshops.
    • Organize the schedule.
    • Print and post flyers.
    • Keep attendance rolls and let faculty know who attended for extra credit.

Rockingham Community College

back to the students responsibility
Back to the students - Responsibility
  • Before the student leaves, make the second appointment (in two weeks).
    • To promote student responsibility we do not call the student before the appointment.
    • We also wait 48 hours to call the student after a missed appointment, at least 50% of them show up the next day looking sheepish.

Rockingham Community College

second following appointments
Second & Following Appointments
  • Discuss specifics:
    • Use the ‘what went wrong’ section.
    • Talk about the courses the student is currently taking and how to prevent ‘what went wrong’ from happening again.
    • Encourage the student to take a proactive role in their education – to seek advice from their instructors, to use the resources on campus, and to research their chosen career goals.
    • Address any personal issues the student may be having that is holding them back and refer them to counseling when necessary.

Rockingham Community College

second following appointments continued
Discuss Specifics (continued):

Check to make sure the students are attending the workshops and/or watching the videos in the library

Talk to the student about what they learned and how they are going to change their study habits as a result of what they’ve learned.

Second & Following Appointments (continued)

Rockingham Community College

instructor involvement
Instructor Involvement
  • Student Interim Progress Report:
    • Student takes progress report to faculty to fill out.
    • Each faculty member indicates the student’s grade, attendance, participation, and if they have any missing assignments.
    • This gives us a better understanding of how the student is doing in classes.
    • Go over the report with the student.

Rockingham Community College

suspension appeal
Suspension & Appeal
  • Suspension is effective immediately and the student must sit out for one semester.
  • The student can appeal to be re-admitted the following semester.
  • The student will meet with the Vice-President for Student Development and the Academic Assistance Advisor.
  • The student’s participation in the program will be considered as part of their appeal.

Rockingham Community College

summer results
Summer Results
  • Students on Probation: 17
    • Students who participated: 9 (53%)
      • Average GPA 2.01
      • Students no longer on probation: 2 (22%)
      • Students who returned for Fall semester: 5 (55%)
    • Students who came to 3 or more appointments: 4 (44%)
      • Average GPA 2.13
    • Students who did not participate: 8 (47%)
      • Average GPA N/A – All students withdrew

Rockingham Community College

fall results to date
Fall Results to Date
  • Students on Probation: 54
    • Students who came in for first appointment: 34 (63%)
    • Students who have come in for more than one appointment: 27 (50%)

Rockingham Community College

final goal
Final Goal
  • Turn this student
  • Into this student

Rockingham Community College

  • Overcoming CIS reporting issues.
  • Helping students understand what probation means and why it matters.
  • Contacting students – the first meeting is the hardest.
  • Students who are working.
  • Finding the best way to involve faculty.

Rockingham Community College

concluding thoughts
Concluding Thoughts
  • The ups & downs – some student examples…

Rockingham Community College


Rockingham Community College

  • Cruise, C. A. (2002).   Advising Students on Academic Probation. The Mentor,
  • Garcia, Yvette (2004). Contract for Academic Success. Retrieved November 2, 2005, from
  • Gordon, V. N. and Habley, W. R. (2000)   Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook.   San Francisco:   Jossey Bass.
  • Higgins, E. M. (2003). Advising students on probation. Retrieved October 12, 2005 - from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources: http//
  • Nery, M. (2004). LADDERS Program Helps Students Make the Climb to Academic Success. College of Sciences Newsletter, Old Dominion University, 20. Retrieved October 12, 2005 from


California State University, Long Beach,

Purdue University North Central,

University of Minnesota,

University of Wisconsin-Stout,

Northern Illinois University,

Illinois State University,

Rockingham Community College