Town Hall FAQs and Answers
November 20, 2019
What’s going on?
We identified several areas in need of improvement within the College of Sciences (COS): retention rates, the math "bottleneck," and lack of proactive intervention for students struggling with COS classes. As an administration, our goal is to help students finish a four year degree within the COS or UTSA in general. The programs that we are proposing will serve as additional resources to help students to succeed.
In Spring 2020, we will begin the process of implementing our proposed programs:
- The Math Success initiative introduces a greater range of class sizes as well as more attention and support to struggling students.
- Our Intrusive Advising initiative proactively identifies and connects students in academic difficulty to appropriate help.
- The Peer Mentoring program employs paid student mentors, usually juniors or seniors, who provide peer-to-peer academic and/or life support.
- COS Freshmen Interest Groups (FIGs) allow cross-disciplinary groups to engage with faculty advisors and peer mentors. As space permits, members will be grouped together in residence halls. Biology is launching the FIGs pilot program in Fall 2020.
- The Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) connects students to UTSA research faculty and groups, off-site faculty and groups, and research-focused internships. It also takes a look at how our undergraduate labs are currently structured and seeks to transform them into more dynamic, interactive experiences that fully immerse students into research.
How will my tuition be impacted?
The current proposal is to increase the Learning Resource Fee (LRF) from $5 to $16 per semester credit hour on lower division courses in order to provide increased student success initiatives and faculty support. The new proposal will adopt a differential tuition model for upper division courses of $50 per semester credit hour. The existing LRF and Tech Service Fee (TSF) on upper division courses will be removed.
Considering UTSA’s population from a socioeconomic standpoint, do you think these increases are going to affect it?
We are sensitive to the financial burden that increases in tuition and fees can cause. Our hope is that the increased resources set students up for success so that they are able to complete their UTSA degree in four years and avoid increased debt. To help offset tuition costs, we encourage students to take advantage of campus programs (such as the upcoming Peer Mentoring opportunity) that provide both payment and valuable experience to student employees. Please reach out to your academic advisor or the COS Student Success Center for more information about on-campus employment options and financial aid resources.
Why are you charging people who are taking upper division classes more?
Our job is to prepare students for their professional careers, whether they plan to pursue immediate employment or attend graduate programs. The increased revenue from the newly raised tuition will allow us to continue doing this at an even higher level of success. Our goal was to identify a way that we could better support all students in the lower level classes, particularly those where we have identified problems. The learning resource fee from every student in undergraduate classes, including students from other schools who come to UTSA to take classes, goes to our college. This benefits all students in the college, including graduate students.
Why are graduate courses receiving an increase but no initiatives?
While the proposed programs discussed above primarily address undergraduate needs, we are thinking strategically about how we can continue to positively impact our graduate students. We have heard that graduate students are craving more access to professional development. We are in the process of increasing our range of services for graduate students so that they can take advantage of career counseling, networking, and other valuable resources.
Do you have a proposed budget for each of the five new programs?
A detailed budget is under development and we will provide a summary at a later date.
What’s the difference between academic advising and intrusive advising?
Academic advisors help students remain on track with their intended degree plan. In intrusive advising, faculty will help students throughout their academic process by connecting students with resources that will facilitate their success.
Will there be any sort of standardized training for peer mentors?
Yes, COS peer-mentors will receive formal training together with the first-year peer mentors involved in the First-Year Experience program. Our goal is to empower peer mentors to enact change amongst our student population. We will select peer mentors who are proficient in the COS-related subjects.
How are you going to identify students who need help?
We will gather data from midterm grades and GPA at the end of every semester. Of course, students can self-identify and become part of student success programs. The students will then schedule a time to utilize the resources and meet the people who can help them get back on track.
How will the peer mentoring program work for students who aren’t on campus as often?
The great thing about this program is the flexibility — you can utilize Skype, FaceTime, and other technological resources to meet remotely with your peer mentor as needed. Your peer mentor will work with you and your schedule.
How are you measuring the success of these programs?
We have developed metrics for every student success intuitive. For example, for the peer-mentoring program, we will use first-year retention, sense of belonging, knowledge of university services, and knowledge of degree requirements.
What steps are you taking to let us know it’s OK to approach professors?
We understand that reaching out to professors can be intimidating. You should know that you are always welcome to talk to your professors and if you feel uncomfortable doing so, you can reach out to the COS Student Success Center or Dean’s Office for help. Our hope is that the peer mentors can serve as relationship facilitators and helps students bridge that gap with professors.
Will there be a cap for total number of credit hours?
No, the fee structure applies regardless of credit hours.
One of the obstacles in undergraduate research is funding. Is there money allocated for scholarships?
No, this additional funding does not provide research-based scholarships. However, we do intend to employ peer mentors, which can help financially enable you to pursue research opportunities. Merit-based scholarships can also help offset the cost of unpaid research. You can explore the $430,000 in scholarships currently awarded by the college here.
How can I get involved in research now?
We value the importance of research and are here to help you learn more about how to get started. If you’re interested in learning more about research, reach out to your department to talk about next steps. In the future, we intend to provide a more proactive approach to research through CURE and other undergraduate resources.
Other universities have similar programs to Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE). Who will be teaching CURE here?
First, the goal of CURE is to provide students with authentic research experience that will help develop marketable skills. Marketable skills are essential to successfully pursue jobs and or post bac programs. We plan to hire fixed-term instructors who have their master’s or doctorate and are subject matter experts. In addition, some labs will be taught by highly-qualified TAs.