By BRIAN BIGELOW | Staff Writer

Failing classes can not only hurt a student’s GPA, but can also jeopardize their chances to continue their studies.

Students that don’t maintain satisfactory academic progress can become ineligible for federal financial aid and even suspended indefinitely.

If a student’s cumulative GPA drops below a 1.5 for 12-29 hours attempted, a 1.8 for 30-45 hours attempted, a 1.9 for 46-59 hours or a 2.0 for 60 or more attempted hours, then that student will be placed on academic probation. Students with less than a total of 11 hours attempted in their college career have no minimum GPA requirement.

According to Telaina Wrigley, APSU registrar, there were approximately 449 students on academic probation during Fall 2009 and approximately 368 students on academic probation during Spring 2010.

If a student on academic probation makes at least a 2.0 GPA during their probation period they can remain on academic probation during subsequent semesters until they are able to raise their cumulative GPA to the required minimum.

However, if neither of those requirements are met, then a student will be placed on academic suspension.

A student’s first academic suspension lasts for a single semester, not including summer semesters. A second suspension will result in a student being unable to attend for an entire year. A third suspension lasts indefinitely.

Poor grades are often the result of extenuating circumstances and, for that reason, each academic suspension can be appealed through the office of the registrar. Each appeal is reviewed by an appeals committee, and one appeal can be made per suspension period. For indefinite suspensions, appeals can be made once per year.

“There’s no formula” for a successful appeal, Wrigley said. “There are so many different extenuating circumstances. We have had people who have deaths of family and they didn’t withdraw like they were supposed to.” Other extenuating circumstances include serious illness or accidents and other “personal” complications.

Merit based grants and scholarships generally have minimum GPA requirements, but federal grants and loans also require a minimum level of performance. According to the APSU financial aid website, students on academic probation can still receive federal assistance, but, if placed on academic suspension, a student may not receive financial aid after they return to school until they have raised their cumulative GPA to the minimum for satisfactory academic progress.

According to the APSU Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy, “Neither paying for classes nor sitting out a semester affects a student’s academic progress standing. Therefore, neither, by itself or in combination, is sufficient to reestablish the federal student aid eligibility of a student who has lost his or her eligibility because he or she has failed to satisfy the standard for satisfactory academic progress.

“Students will be expected to regain eligibility by improving their academics to meet the … [satisfactory academic progress] standards.”

APSU offers many opportunities to help struggling students avoid academic probation and suspension and to help students that are already on probation or are returning from suspension.

APSU offers a “Promoting Academic Student Success,” or “PASS,” class to freshmen that have been placed on academic probation after their first semester and students that have successfully appealed a suspension. This non-credit class focuses on study skills, life skills and stress management among other areas where students need additional help.

According to Kay Haralson, a Title 3 grant specialist and director of the PASS program, students who successfully complete the PASS course on average increase their GPAs by “80 or 90 percent.”

“Academic Alert” is another tool used by APSU faculty to help ensure struggling students are able to succeed. One of the key messages that Barbara Hanson, Academic Alert coordinator, would like students to know is the office of Academic Alert exists to help students. After being contacted by a professor about a particular student who is falling behind in a class, Academic Alert then contacts the student to tailor a plan specific to their needs. Participation is entirely voluntary.

“My job is to make sure you get the help that you need, not to shake my finger and say ‘you’re in trouble,’” Hanson said. “Often [students] don’t know who to ask [for help]. This gives them a place to go that’s friendly.”

Academic Alert is not a disciplinary action, and doesn’t go into any of the student’s permanent information. It is a way for professors to put struggling students in touch with the services available to them so that they receive the help they need in order to be successful in their classes.

According to the Academic Alert page on APSU’s website, professors contact the office of Academic Alert about a student for many reasons including poor attendance, habitual tardiness, lack of engagement or participation in class, late or missing assignments, poor quality assignments, low tests or quiz scores and inadequate and/or ineffective academic and study skills.

Hanson said the first thing a struggling student should do is, “go back and talk to their professors.”
“Professors want to help you,” Hanson said, but “sometimes you have to ask for help. Get to know your professors and let them get to know you.”

Not all professors use Academic Alert and not all struggling students get alerted, but, “they don’t have to wait until they’re alerted to come see me,” Hanson said.

The Academic Support Center, located in Marks room 122 directly across the hall from the office of Academic Alert, offers many opportunities for students to improve their study skills, work with tutors on particular subjects and get help writing papers. Schedules of tutoring sessions and the writing lab can be found on the Academic Support Services page on the APSU website. Two sessions are reserved for walk-ins and three are for appointment. TAS