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New program makes sure degree plans work for students
Posted: 03/19/2012
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Students at The University of Texas-Pan American, as well as their advisers, will now have a better way of keeping track of their degree plans.

The University has implemented a new software program, DegreeWorks, that allows students to see all their academic information, including what classes they have taken and the grades they earned, what courses they need to take, their grade point averages and what advising they would need.

"All along the way, it gives them a map and a progress report so that they can be encouraged by it, even though it seems like a long way to the end, it shows this is how far they've come," said UTPA Registrar Jeff Rhodes.

Previously, departments throughout the University used their own methods of keeping track of their students' success, and oftentimes the Registrar's Office would not know of any changes in a student's degree plan until it was time for that student to graduate.

"What this does is, it puts all the information in one place, it gives us an excellent diagnostic tool to determine where the problems are in advising, and where any misinformation is coming from," Rhodes said. DegreeWorks is not a substitute for students receiving actual advising from their assigned faculty member or adviser, Rhodes said.

"What I find really exciting is, because it takes a lot of time and effort out of building a degree plan, it allows the advisers to really focus on what I consider the meat of advising, and that is dealing with student success issues," he said. "DegreeWorks allows us to do the course selection but do it more quickly so we can focus on the deeper issues of advising."

At the request of UT Pan American President Robert S. Nelsen, the University purchased the software last spring from SunGard Higher Education -- which also created the Banner student information system the University uses. Training faculty members and advisers on the program began in February.

In his convocation speech last fall, Nelsen said he wanted to improve advising for students and make sure they don't take more classes than they need to graduate.

Undergraduate degree plans at UTPA require students to take an average of 124 credit hours. However, UTPA students on average attempt 165 credit hours and earn 141 credit hours by the time they're ready to graduate, Nelsen said in his speech.

"We have students taking a lot of unnecessary courses, which adds to their cost, adds to their debt load, and adds to their time to degree," Rhodes said. "What we hope to do is, once a student is enrolled, is have them take only the courses they need for their degree, graduate and move on to be community leaders."

DegreeWorks will be available to the University community starting March 19. Registration for the Summer and Fall 2012 semesters begins April 2.

For more information, visit the Office of the Registrar or call (956) 655-2481.