ASU is keeping a closer eye on their students

By Rebecca Lane - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Every student matters.  That's the message Arkansas State University is sending with their new Early Alert Program.

The Early Alert system is an accountability program that enables faculty, staff and student s to keep a close eye on any problems.

On the faculty side, teachers are able to monitor any academic or personal stress their student may be experiencing. They in turn draw attention to their student and refer them to a core group of administrators who seek to provide help.  Instead of one office working with athletes and another office working with students who need tutoring, the electronic database allows administrators to begin working with students as soon as they are referred.

On the student side, anyone on campus can log into the same system and use a community form which simply refers the student.  They do not have access to any personal documents or confidential information.  They can simply give faculty a heads up.  The student who makes the referral has the option to remain anonymous.

Students have the option to opt out of the program, however any involvement in campus organizations, programs or activities require participation.

Darla Fletcher, creator of the Early Alert system, says this has been a year in the making.

"The Early Alert administrators are taking action," Fletcher explains, "it's a collaborative effort between departments to really work together and see what action has taken place, all the while helping students in the process."

While similar systems could cost a school anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000, Fletcher was able to create the program for ASU, saving them money.

Jill Simons, Director of the Wilson Advising Center at ASU, says this program will enable administrators to catch the students early on in the semester so they can intervene and help.

"Especially with our first year students," she explains, "when students start school, there are a lot of transitional needs that are going on."

These transitional needs include adjusting to college life, homesickness and simply learning study skills.  While their goal is to reach out, the issue of a student's privacy comes into question.

Freshman Political Science major, Robert McDavis sees no problem with the program.  He actually says it is comforting knowing extra measures are being taken to ensure success.

"I would want somebody to advise me to get better results," he explains, "Everybody needs to pass because a college degree is very important."

Senior Political Science major, Brittany Edwards agrees.  Edwards is the Vice President of her sorority and says she has witnessed first-hand students shying away from asking for help.

"I know that some of my sisters are embarrassed to ask for help for subjects," she explains.

The program was launched today and Simons, along with the rest of the collaborative team, admit there will more than likely be some tweaking that will take place, but they are optimistic.  Simons adds that the most important thing is for students to feel that they are more than just a number.

"A student on campus that is having any type of distress, academic or personal, we have a way to report to a core group of individuals that that student's out there and needs help."

©2009 KAIT

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.