In an effort to combat generational poverty in San Antonio through education and training, the Alamo Colleges District has implemented a three-semester registration initiative.
Launched last spring, this program allows students to register for up to three semesters at once, departing from the traditional practice of registering for only one term at a time.
Approximately 20 percent of students across the district’s five campuses have already taken advantage of this initiative, according to Gilberto Becerra, Associate Vice Chancellor of Advocacy, Retention, and Completion for the college district.
The rationale behind this approach is to accommodate the complex lives of many college students who juggle multiple responsibilities, such as caring for children and parents or working multiple jobs.
While children’s school schedules are set for an entire year, college students’ course schedules traditionally vary from term to term, leading to scheduling conflicts. This can hinder students’ progress in their studies.
Alamo colleges district empowers students
San Antonio’s high poverty rate and a commitment to improving student success have driven the district to explore innovative solutions.
By allowing students to plan their academic calendars in advance, the Alamo Colleges District aims to provide more predictability and flexibility, making it easier for students to balance their various responsibilities.
Monica Parrish Trent, Chief Program and Network Officer at Achieving the Dream, emphasized the importance of scheduling courses with equity in mind, suggesting that institutions consider publishing schedules for the entire academic year.
She pointed out that students often plan work and childcare on longer-term scales, making it crucial for colleges to offer extended scheduling options.
In addition to its practical benefits, the ability to register for up to three terms in advance may also motivate students by providing a tangible sense of progression and commitment to their academic journey.
Implementing the three-semester registration policy required overcoming various challenges inherent in higher education, including fee structures.
The district opted to allow students to register for future semesters while still paying term by term. Even students who do not enroll for a preregistered term maintain their registration for subsequent semesters.
Planning course offerings three semesters ahead also presented challenges. To address this, the district relied on previous course enrollment data to determine the number of course sections needed.
The unpredictability of enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic complicated this planning, requiring the inclusion of pre-pandemic data in the decision-making process.
The Alamo Colleges District plans to assess the success of this policy by monitoring adoption rates, class enrollment and drop rates across terms, and other relevant data.
Key indicators include whether students who participate in the program achieve higher course completion and graduation rates. The district remains open to adjusting and improving the initiative based on outcomes.
As other institutions consider similar approaches, Gilberto Becerra believes that more schools will explore scheduling as a tool for enhancing student success and improving academic outcomes.