TO: Montana Board of Regents

FROM: Roger Barber, Deputy Commissioner for Academic & Student Affairs

RE: The College Preparatory Program Report

DATE: September 21-23, 2005

The College Preparatory Program Report is attached to this memorandum. This Report is prepared, as part of Montana Board of Regents Policy 301.7. That Policy says, in part:

To ensure reasonably smooth transition to full implementation of the College Preparatory Program, each of the six campuses of the Montana University System is granted discretionary exemptions for in-state applicants who have not completed the College Preparatory Program not to exceed 5 percent of the in-state enrollment of first-time, full-time first year students.

Institutions will be obligated to provide appropriate annual reports indicating numbers of students enrolled as exemptions and their academic progress in comparison to those students regularly admitted. . .

Hopefully, the Report is self-explanatory. The first table describes the "first-time, full-time" student pool, and the number of students in that pool who were admitted by exemption because they had not completed the College Preparatory Program in high school. The second table describes the academic performance of the "first-time, full-time" students, at the end of their first year of college; and the third table describes the academic performance of the students who were admitted by exemption at the end of their first year of college.

When the College Preparatory Program was adopted by the Montana Board of Regents, the Board assumed that students with more rigorous high school preparation would do better when they moved on to the Montana University System. The information in this Report supports that assumption, particularly for students who earned a grade point average above a 3.00 or below a 2.00. It also makes the case for giving some students a chance, even if they haven't completed a College Preparatory Program, although the use of discretionary exemptions will always be an imprecise process.

The Report is just a snapshot, because it only tracks one cohort of students and it only follows those students during their first year of academic work. The campuses have been asked to "identify" the students who are included in this Report, however, so their progress can be monitored in subsequent years. That progress information will almost certainly be less than perfect, however, since it will not include students who continued their education by transferring to another postsecondary institution.

Most of you will recall that this Report has been especially difficult to prepare in the past, because of the number of exclusions and exceptions written into the College Preparatory Program Policy. The campuses made a good faith effort to submit valid information, but they often had innumerable questions about the data as it was being assembled. As a result, the Report usually generated more questions than answers when it was presented to the Board.

In an effort to insure that the campuses were at least reporting the same students, I developed a "formula" for the Report, with the help of colleagues at The University of Montana-Missoula especially. That 13-step formula is attached to the Report, and it illustrates both the complexity of assembling this kind of data and the complexity of the admissions standards that have been developed for the Montana University System over the years. Feedback on the formula was supportive. But it also generated additional questions, and the guidelines may be revised for future reports.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.

Calculating the Students for
The College Preparatory Program Report

Step 1: Identify and include EVERY STUDENT who entered your institution for the first time during the reporting period. For this iteration of the report, the reporting period will be summer semester 2004, fall semester 2004 and spring semester 2005.

Step 2: SUBTRACT students who were admitted to an affiliated College of Technology. This step will only apply to The University of Montana-Missoula, Montana Tech of The University of Montana, and Montana State University-Billings.

Explanation: The College Preparatory Program is a requirement for admission to the four-year campuses. Therefore, it does not apply to the Colleges of Technology that are affiliated with one of the four-year institutions. The College Preparatory Program has absolutely nothing to do with two-year or four-year programs, however, so Montana State University-Bozeman, The University of Montana Western and Montana State University- Northern should skip this step.

Step 3: SUBTRACT students who entered your institution with credits from another post-secondary institution.

Explanation: The College Preparatory Program policy only applies to first-time students. A first-time student is defined as any entering freshman who has never attended any college or who entered with advanced standing credits (college credits earned before graduation from high school).

Step 4: SUBTRACT students who only attended your institution during summer semester of the reporting period.

Explanation: Summer only students are excluded from the College Preparatory Program requirement, by Regent policy.

Step 5: SUBTRACT students who did not enter your institution for a period of at least three years from the date of their high school graduation or from the date when they would have graduated from high school.

Explanation: So-called "non-traditional students" are excluded from the College Preparatory Program requirement. Non-traditional students are defined, by Regent policy, as students who have been out of high school for at least three (3) years.

Step 6: SUBTRACT all out-of-state students.

Explanation: The purpose of this report is to "compare" the performance of students who completed the College Preparatory Program against students who were admitted to the Montana University System by exemption because they had not completed that Program. In establishing that exemption, Regent policy states that only in-state students should be included in the overall pool when determining the number of exemptions authorized at each institution.

Step 7: SUBTRACT students who are not full-time students. I.E., students who take seven or fewer college-level semester credits.

Explanation: Part-time students are excluded from the College Preparatory Program requirement, by Regent policy. Part-time students are defined as "students taking seven or fewer college-level semester credits."

Caution: In order to be excluded from the Report entirely, students must have maintained their part-time status all during the reporting period. If any student becomes a full-time student during the reporting period, using the policy definition set out above, they should be included in the Report.

Additional Caution: Summer school may cause a particular problem with this calculation. Because most units of the Montana University System have accelerated or compressed sessions during summer school, it is possible for a student to accumulate more credits during the summer semester than they ordinarily might during the regular academic year. To assist with this section, the following operating rules should help:

    •          The entire summer session should be considered one (1) semester, regardless of how many sub-sessions it might be divided into. I.E., UM-Missoula's two five-week sessions should be considered one semester. In calculating the part-time status of the student, that students total number of credits during the entire summer should be considered, rather than each, individual sub-session.
    •          Because a student can accumulate more credits during the summer sub-sessions, their status as a part-time or full-time student should not be automatically determined by the summer session credit load. If a student exceeds the part-time definition above during the summer session, but remains a part-time student during the fall and spring semester, they should be classified as a part-time student for the entire reporting period. The summer school enrollment should not determine a student's status for the entire year, under the guidelines of this report.
    •          Because of the complexity of this particular step, it has been placed near the end of the report, to reduce the student pool as much as possible. If students should be removed for other reasons, that happens in previous steps. Step 8 is then applied to a smaller pool of students.

Step 8: SUBTRACT students who have been admitted to your institution under some kind of temporary admissions program or process.

Explanation: Most of the campuses have an "admissions program or admissions status" that permits students to enter the institution on a "temporary basis," without going through the entire admissions process with its complexity of paperwork and documentation. That procedure is intended to assist students who just want to pick up a handful of courses, because they are interested in learning more about some particular subject, like an introductory water color course or astronomy or something that has always been an interest of theirs. On most of the campuses, students have to go through the regular admissions process with all of its paperwork, once they have accumulated a certain number of credits under this temporary status. Other campuses apparently permit students to continue under this program "indefinitely," as long as they have no intention of ever working on a degree or credential of some kind. Since these students have not been formally admitted to your institution, as matriculating students, they should be subtracted from the pool if they haven't been eliminated by an earlier step in the formula. This step has been placed at the end of the formula, because previous steps in this narrative have probably already erased them. But just in case a few hangers-on are still in the pool, they should be removed now.

Step 9: The total number of students remaining in your institution's pool, following step 8, will become the number reported in the first box, first row of the College Preparatory program report.

Step 10: IDENTIFY the number of students who were admitted to your institution under the 15% exemption created by Policy 301.1.

Explanation: Policy 301.1 authorizes each institution in the Montana University System . . .to exempt up to 15% of first-time, full-time undergraduates for students with special talents, minorities and others who demonstrate special needs. This exemption applies to three of the admissions expectations set out in Policy 301.1. I.E., a minimum ACT or SAT score, a minimum high school grade point average; and a minimum class standing. Since those students were admitted to your institution under a different exemption policy, they need to be identified at this point. They should not be excluded or subtracted from the overall pool, however, since they do not fall into any of the specific exclusions established in the College Preparatory Program policy.

Step 11: IDENTIFY the number of students who were admitted to your institution under the 5% exemption created by Policy 301.7, College Preparatory Program. That number will become the total number of students reported in the first box, second row of the College Preparatory Program report.

Step 12: The remainder of the report should be self-explanatory. The pool of students in step 9 will be used to complete the second table in the report. The pool of students in step 11 will be used to complete the third table in the report.

Step 13: The pool of students in both step 9 and step 11 should by identified somehow, because the Montana Board of Regents has requested follow-up information on these students at the end of their first year of attendance in the Montana University System, and also in subsequent years. The number of subsequent years is still being discussed.