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Graduation Help Desk: a key to student success

Graduation Help Desk: a key to student success

(July 15, 2019) – An important program at UTSA is helping Roadrunner students resolve roadblocks to graduation. The Graduation Help Desk, which was established at UTSA through a $222,000 grant from the UT System to support student success initiatives, has taken on 1,222 cases from students encountering graduation issues since its start in November 2017. As part of UTSA’s 10-year vision, the university is rapidly progressing as a model of student success by increasing four- and six-year graduation rates. An outcome of the Presidential Initiative on Student Success, the Graduation Help Desk is one of the tools UTSA has adopted to achieve this objective.

“There are myriad reasons why a student could have difficulty graduating, and they often go beyond simply not being able to take a required course,” said Tammy Wyatt, UTSA vice provost for student success. “The Graduation Help Desk gets involved when problems persist after a student has tried to resolve the issue through ordinary channels, such as working with their advisor, their major department/faculty, or other relevant offices on campus.”

Students can contact the virtual Graduation Help Desk directly or be referred by a faculty or staff member. According to retention and graduation program coordinator Matt Keneson, the cases that are brought to the Graduation Help Desk are often complex and can require several days or even weeks to resolve.

One case involved an honors student who had already been accepted to an Ivy League graduate program, but was missing several core credits she needed to graduate, putting her admittance at risk. She attended a few summer courses and Keneson was able to help find a way for her to earn her last few credits through a competency-based program. The student was able to graduate in four years from UTSA and begin graduate school. Since then, efforts have been taken to more intensively monitor student progress toward their degree earlier than their final semester.

The approach the Graduation Help Desk takes to resolve student problems is multi-faceted and holistic. Keneson often works to resolve issues on behalf of students by reaching out to the other entities on campus that are part of the student’s case to get to the root of the roadblock.

Keneson notes that “we stay involved until the problem is resolved,” which means the work is not over when a particular student’s case is cleared up. Working on individual cases illuminates sticking points in the system where students get caught up, and the Graduation Help Desk addresses these problems by advocating for policy changes.

Although assisting student referrals is a primary function of the Graduation Help Desk, some of its most significant contributions to student success have come from proactive outreach campaigns targeting first-time, full-time cohort students in an effort to improve four- and six-year graduation rates.

One such campaign reaches out to students who have enrolled in courses for which they already have credit, notifying them that completing the course will not provide the students additional credit toward their degrees and could both delay their graduation and increase their total tuition costs. In the spring 2019 semester, Keneson reached out to 177 students facing this situation. In response, 86% of those students changed courses which collectively saved them over $147,000 in tuition and fees.

“We want the Graduation Help Desk to be part of a network of resources for students, faculty, and staff,” Keneson said. “We’re working on establishing connections with other student services on campus to share information and keep each other informed on all the options that can assist students.”

Matthew Boerger

Learn more about the UTSA Graduation Help Desk or email

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