Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

Taylor’s Table Talk: Fresh Start policies remove academic barriers

On May 6, Ohio University’s Faculty Senate met to discuss a resolution to adopt an Academic Fresh Start policy. Under this policy, students could request a “fresh start” at re-enrollment 24 months after their last enrollment.

Fresh Start students could have “certain grades disregarded” in their cumulative GPA once they complete 12 credit hours and earn a minimum 2.00 GPA upon re-enrollment. Furthermore, grades F and D- would be disregarded in their cumulative GPA calculation. Implementing a Fresh Start program would remove a barrier that prevents past students from re-enrolling and achieving their academic goals.

Enrollment in higher education is on the decline and has been for over a decade. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment has averaged a 1.5% decline yearly since 2011. 

Enrollment and retention have decreased for a multitude of reasons, according to Inside Higher Ed, including student debt, lack of interest, insufficient return on investment, stress and a lack of confidence in the benefits of a college education. These issues contributing to declining enrollment have compounded declining re-enrollment.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center publishes an ongoing “Some College, No Credentials” study marking the patterns of re-enrollment and success for college students. In July 2021, the center reported that 40.4 million people had not completed their college degrees. Of this SCNC population, only 864,000 students re-enrolled and 53,000 completed their first undergraduate credential in their first year of re-enrollment; these numbers showed declines from the previous year.

Barriers to re-enrolling in college include financial ability, family structures and support, caregiving responsibilities and poor academic records. Returning to college when the time is right can be disheartening with a prior academic record that does not reflect the student’s current motivations, plans and character. Implementing a Fresh Start policy partially or entirely removes the burden of this uphill academic battle.

Other universities in Ohio have implemented programs similar to OU’s proposed policy. The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati – the two universities in Ohio with the highest enrollment – have Fresh Start programs, which include variations of OU’s proposed requirements. 

According to Inside Higher Ed, other academic forgiveness programs, such as grade forgiveness, prompt students to challenge themselves and promote enrollment retention. Furthermore, students are 6% more likely to repeat courses when grade forgiveness is in effect, according to a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Fresh Start policies supplement the positive effects of academic forgiveness programs, fostering a more hopeful educational environment for re-enrolled students. For example, OU’s proposed Fresh Start program includes a grade forgiveness component, which minimizes the burden of poor academic records. 

According to 2022 census data, only 13,407 people over 25 reported a Bachelor’s degree in Athens County. This is only 34.3% of 25-year-olds in the county. A Fresh Start program is sensible in a region with varying socioeconomic needs and intersecting identities. Appalachian students often face barriers to education, such as limited broadband internet access. Connecting Appalachia found broadband internet is unserved to 75% of Appalachian Ohio, which leads to unequal education opportunities. 

According to a study presented at North Texas Community College, underrepresented students face additional barriers to academic success, such as inaccessible child and health care, inconsistent advising, limited course offerings, financial burdens and inaccessible or unreliable transportation. 

These barriers affect many in southeastern Ohio, leading to withdrawals from college, regardless of academic standing. A Fresh Start program at OU would assure students that, as their circumstances change, they can return to their pursuit of a college education.

Taylor Orcutt is a junior studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Taylor know by tweeting her @TaylorOrcutt.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH