Mona is the director of learning outcomes at High Hill University. This role is new to the division of student affairs; however, the culture of evaluation and assessment at High Hill is strong. Mona has been in the position for two years and is approaching her first national accreditation visit. As part of her job, she is responsible for submitting the outcomes data from the student affairs division.
She quickly realizes that data at High Hill are tremendously unreliable or nonexistent for many offices. The advising office recently conducted as CAS self-study, but she can find no other reliable data sources to assist her in her reporting. Mona has four weeks to submit the final report for review prior to the visit.
If you were Mona, how would you begin addressing this issue?
What ethical issues are involved in using data you believe are inaccurate?
Discuss a plan for Mona as the university approaches this accreditation visit.
2. Whisper Falls College is a small liberal arts college in the city of Springbrook that is celebrating its 100th year. More than 75% of Whisper Falls’s students are state residents, and almost 905 of its alumni have remained in the state after graduation. Over the years, Springbrook has grown into the largest metropolitan community in the state. Like many tuition-driven independent colleges, Whisper Falls has struggled to keep student costs competitive with the land-grant university and community colleges in the area. the college recently added evening and students enroll part-time at Whisper Falls, the Admissions Office has targeted individuals seeking a personalized learning environment for full-time study. Three Admissions representatives are assigned to the surrounding area, allowing the college to be heavily represented at college and career fairs as well as a broad range of community and high school events. Admissions representatives maintain enrollment targets, and each works closely with prospective students until the beginning of fall classes to ensure maximum enrollment at Whisper Falls.
Simon, the associate director of financial aid at Whisper Falls, has been at the college since completing his master’s degree there about two years ago. His first year has passed in a whirlwind of adjusting to the small college culture, and he also began his position late, in October. Last August, Simon had his first experience with the New Student Day, a welcome and orientation program for new Whisper Falls students held the Friday before the start of fall classes. During the week preceding New Student Day, Admissions representatives brought several students to his office to visit about financial aid.
As Simon met with students, he was surprised at how many of them had initiated their admission applications that same day and had not yet filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be filed and processed as early as January 1 for enrollment in the fall semester of the same year.
Simon carefully explained to each student in this situation, “I will try my very best to project an estimate and create an award letter that will ultimately cover your tuition, which at Whisper Falls is $13,000, and educational expenses. Keep in mind that most colleges, including Whisper Falls, request that financial aid applications be submitted before April first. Timing is everything: we award institutional scholarships and grants on a first-come, first-served basis, a policy shared by many federal and state scholarships and grants. When the grant money is gone, we are forced to include more student loans in your financial award offer. Some of the loans are guaranteed by the federal government without credit approval. Other loan options are subjected to credit approval and carry origination fees and somewhat higher interest rates. As you might expect, the credit approval loans require more processing time, and we rarely see loan disbursements in less than three weeks from the time you submit your separate application. This is a serious issue because your first-semester tuition and fees are due at the end of the first week of classes.”
Simon paused to allow all of the information he had just shared with the students sink in. Then, sounding as optimistic as he could, Simon added that Whisper Falls had customarily extended the payment date for students who qualified for financial aid but whose loan funds had not yet been disbursed.
“We can wait,” he said, “but we can’t guarantee you will be approved for all of the student loans you might need to pay your bill and cover the other education-related expenses.”
Over the summer, Simon had looked closely at Whisper Falls’s enrollments and withdrawals during the past academic year and the financial aid implications for students and the college. He noticed that about half of the students who had withdrawn before the end of the fall semester were students who had filed an initial application for financial aid in August. He also noted that most of these students which date only partial tuition refunds were issued. He called the registrar and discovered that most of the departing students had indicated “financial reasons” as the main factor in their decisions to withdraw.
Retention and enrollment issues were becoming even more salient for Whisper Falls this year. Following last spring’s board decision to keep tuition rates the same, the Admissions Office was under increased pressure to attract and enroll even more students for the fall. The summer was going pretty fast, and New Student Day was quickly approaching.
As was customary, Simon and his other financial aid colleagues had cleared their calendars in anticipation of drop-in meetings with students and family members throughout the day. Shortly after 8 a.m. on New Student Day, Simon looked up to see Cheryl, one of the Admissions representatives assigned to the Springbrook area, saying good morning and ushering a person into Simon’s office. Simon greeted Cheryl and the new student, who Cheryl introduced with a broad smile as “Patricia, Whisper Falls’s newest full-time student.”
Simon invited Patricia to sit down, and Cheryl said, “ Patricia is all ready to enroll in fall classes. She just needs a quick overview of her anticipated financial aid package. Also, could you help her with filing her FAFSA form?” Cheryl smiled again and left.
Simon turned to Patricia, who shook her head gently, smiled, and said, “This is all happening very quickly. Cheryl kept in touch with me after I went to a career fair last November, but I just recently decided to give college a try. No one in my family ever went to college, but I want to set a better example for my two sons who are in middle school. No one at my high school 15 years ago ever told a young Black woman like me that I had what it takes to go to college, and I want it to be different for my sons. When I talked to Cheryl, she said that the grant and loan programs will take care of everything. I hope that’s the case because I feel like I have a whole lot riding on this decision.”
What should Simon do and why?