TAPS program progressing at good pace

As USF strives to improve its academic standing, administrators are evaluating a report concerning the new Tracking Academic Progress of Students program.

According to Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield, TAPS is progressing at a nice pace a year after its implementation.

“It was done with a very soft rollout in 2005; not many students knew about it,” he said. “We did what I’ll call a hard rollout, or extensive rollout, to the incoming freshman this fall and summer 2006.”

The program provides advisers and students with a comprehensive tool for tracking academic progress. This makes it easier for advisers to identify and rectify scheduling problems so students can plan ahead and graduate within four years. It is available only to freshman who have declared a major.

“We don’t force freshman to declare a major,” Besterfield said. “If we have a student that is thinking about business, but they’re really not sure, I would rather they declare business. Then we can get them some business courses and see if they are successful. Then we can find out and get them into another major that they can be successful in.”

Besterfield used the business program as a model indicative of the overall data in a preliminary report printed Thursday.

In fall 2005, 663 incoming freshman were declared business students. By spring semester, that number dropped to 618. By fall 2006, the number dropped further to 488.

It is important to note, Besterfield said, that many of these students merely changed majors.

“We saw some attrition; not all of these students left the University, though,” Besterfield said. “Many of them changed majors. They might not have been succeeding or progressing well in business.”

Of the 663 freshman declared business majors, though, only 389 completed their first semester of classes.

Junior communications major Matt Muzeka listed dropping classes as a reason for his plans to graduate a semester late.

“Stuff comes up,” he said. “You do bad on a test or something, and you don’t want to take the bad grade, so you drop the class and retake it. You would rather have good grades than get out on time with a bad GPA.”

According to Besterfield, part of the appeal of TAPS is the ability to identify students who are struggling and offer them help. He mentioned the Career Center as a valuable resource.

“The guidance of an adviser can help, but what we are really trying to push is that (students) get over to the Career Center,” Besterfield said. “Maybe the terminology confuses students; the Career Center will also help you determine your major.

“We are in very good shape now. I didn’t feel that way in fall of 2005 -that’s why I opted for a slow rollout – and now I feel that this program can be beneficial to students.