Sean McMinn

As Cal Poly aims to create a more consistent support network for students, nearly 5 percent of the Student Success Fee next year will fund what administrators have dubbed the university’s Academic Success Center.

The center has been described as a “one-stop shop” for freshmen and sophomores to access general resources on campus. According to a quarterly Student Success Fee report from December, these resources include university-wide advising, referral to campus departments and study skills seminars.

“One of the top things we heard from students is they didn’t feel they had a consistent advising experience compared to roommates or friends,” said sociology senior Katie Morrow, who chaired the committee to spend the Student Success Fee through her role as Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president. “This really is going to be a one-stop shop, and we thought that was absolutely something worth investing in.”

No opening date or official location has been chosen for the center, Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier said, but it will likely be within Science (building 52). Cal Poly has allocated the center in $759,220 in Student Success Fee money since the mandatory fee began this year.

Multiple campus departments have been meeting for more than a year about what the center could include, but are waiting for new associate vice provost of academic advising Beth Merritt-Miller to begin in June before making final plans. Merritt-Miller will come to Cal Poly from California State University, Sacramento, where she worked as director of its academic advising and the career centers. Kimi Ikeda, associate vice provost for systems and resources, has led the group in the interim but was unavailable to comment on the center Wednesday.

Officials in student affairs, athletics and ASI, college advisers, college deans and the university registrar are among those discussing planning of the Academic Success Center.

Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said the center’s biggest impact will be to assist struggling students whose issues otherwise might go unaddressed.

“It will identify students who are at some point of fragility academically, whether that’s wanting to change majors, not performing well in classes, being on academic probation,” Humphrey said. “(It will be) really providing a safety net for students.”

It has not yet been decided which student affairs departments, if any, will physically move to the Academic Success Center and which will collaborate with the center’s staff, Humphrey said. Student Academic Services, the Educational Opportunity Program, the Upward Bound Program for low-income first-generation students, the Academic Skills Center and orientation programs are among those being considered.

Having these programs work closely with the Academic Success Center will enhance the university’s overall goal of creating more intentional programs to move students toward graduation, Humphrey said. He is also hopeful it will remove current divisions between departments on campus.

“Students don’t consume Cal Poly in silos,” Humphrey said. “They consume us as a whole.”

At the individual college level, full-time advisers currently handle the bulk of student’s academic concerns. College of Architecture and Environmental Design adviser Ellen Noterman said Cal Poly is in the minority of colleges across the country with no centralized advising system, but she believes it works well anyway.

“We’re better able to advise students because we know who they’re taking in classes (which professor), what problems that might bring,” Noterman said. “When it gets to the real specific area issues, sometimes I think you need a specialist. We’re specialists.”

Because of a delay in hiring for the new associate vice provost position, academic affairs didn’t spend any of the $220,000 it was allocated from the Student Success Fee budget this year. Its funding increased to $539,220 next year — a 145 percent increase in the budget, which increased by 30 percent overall.

Students originally approved the Student Success Fee in an advisory vote to University President Jeffrey Armstrong during 2012, when the university faced dire financial threats from the state. Armstrong later approved the fee in collaboration with then-California State University Chancellor Charles Reed.

Students paid $160 quarterly for the fee this past year, which will increase to $210 next year before capping at $260 in Fall 2014. In a recent email to Mustang Daily, Vice President of Administration and Finance Larry Kelley wrote that the Student Success Fee has become a “critical strategic goal” for the university and he doesn’t expect it to stop in the near future.

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