Colorado State to give students new tool for course planning

Luke Hyce

The Course and Graduation Planner is being developed by CSU's Registrar's Office, funded by the IPAS Grant of the Gates Foundation. (Photo Credit: Luke Hyce)
The Course and Graduation Planner is being developed by CSU’s Registrar’s Office, funded by the IPAS Grant of the Gates Foundation. (Photo Credit: Luke Hyce)

Colorado State University is scheduled to release a new planning tool for students starting late spring 2015.

The program, called the Course and Graduation Planner, is part of a 5-section project funded by the IPAS (Integrated Planning and Advising Services) Research Grant provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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The online software will work with the Degree Progress Audit, commonly called DARS, currently on RAMWeb.

It is being created to help students plan out their four-year course schedule by fulfilling prerequisites and notifying students when classes are only available fall or spring semesters.

With the Course and Graduation Planner, students will be able to be more flexible with their course order. The exceptions would be “critical benchmark” classes that will have suggested periods for registration. These recommended course periods will ensure prerequisites are met in an order consistent with an eight-semester agenda.

“Another great thing about the program is it allows students to have access to their personalized plan and adviser at all times,” said Erin Pitts, the coordinator of the Registrar’s Office.

The software will help students and advisers communicate during registration, program changes and course load concerns.

The main goal of the program is to assist students in graduating in the standard eight semesters that most CSU programs of study are centered on. This is especially important for students who rely solely on government financial aid for living, according to Pitts.

“My understanding is that some of the financial aid rules that are tightening up a bit are around degree applicability,” Pitts said. “Where before, students could take some extra courses to be full time, now the federal government doesn’t necessarily want to spend those tax-payer dollars on classes the student doesn’t really need. It doesn’t sound like a five-year program is going to be an option anymore in terms of funding.”

According to CSU’s 2014-2015 Financial Aid Guide, courses that do not fulfill degree requirements are not funded. The Course and Graduation Planner could help students ensure they are using their time in a financially conscious manner.

The program is still in construction, and the Registrar’s Office is working with students to fine tune the program as much as possible.

Katelyn Valasek, a business student and guest associate at the registrar’s office, is the student “guinea pig,” for the program, helping evaluate the software.

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“I think that once it’s finished, and everything is going right, it will be really beneficial to CSU students,” Valasek said. “So far, my favorite part is that it does what an adviser would do, and you can just take it year by year.”

Jeremy Kaffrey, a junior in computer science and psychology and Peer Academic Leader, or P.A.L., for the College of Natural Sciences, is more skeptical about the program.

“I think it’s useful to a point, but I had my four years planned out my freshman year, and then it changed as soon as I became a sophomore,” Kaffrey said. “I think it’s nice to have a rough idea, but I don’t think you should use it as a strict outline.”

While the software does allow for changes in programs of study and program breaks, the flexibility of the program to accommodate other complications is yet to be determined.

“We are hoping that the majority of majors, including concentrations, will be available in the tool for students to use with their advisers when they are planning for fall 2015 registration,” Pitts said.

The utilization of the program will be a multi-year process. Once fully implemented, the plan will help the University gather course demand information, allow departments to reassemble curriculum and let students harness their eight semesters efficiently.

Collegian Reporter Luke Hyce can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @luke_hyce.