Peninsula College revamping its application, enrollment process

Trustees learn about new testing, onboarding plans

PORT ANGELES — Peninsula College is removing one of the primary obstacles to application and enrollment by making mandatory placement tests optional for students.

The college’s Board of Trustees learned about the plan at its meeting Tuesday from director of enrollment Ruth Adams, advisor Maitland Peet and English professor Helen Lovejoy. Trustees also heard of a new model for onboarding students as part of rethinking and revising Guided Pathways at the college.

Guided Pathways is a statewide effort focused on supporting low-income and first-generation college students and helping achieve success in their education and career goals.

Placement testing that determined the appropriate level of math and English courses at Peninsula College was a particular area of concern of the working group that included Adams, Peet and Lovejoy, Peet said.

“We were hearing from students and advisors and we thought it was worth responding to,” he said.

Some students did not bother applying to the college when they learned they would have to take a test (even though it has open enrollment). Some placed in remedial courses became discouraged because they believed they were not progressing toward their desired career path and dropped out. Others placed in developmental courses who were actually prepared for college-level work also were likely to become discouraged and not return.

“We’re removing the primary barrier, testing for placement, and implementing guided self-placement,” Adams said.

Self-guided placement allows a student, in consultation with an advisor, to choose suitable courses and plan their educational program. It averts taking a placement test that might set them on a path that doesn’t align with their interests and goals, said the working group.

Placement testing still will be offered to students. They also can use their high school or college transcripts or recent test scores such as SAT and ACT to help determine their level of coursework.

Placing students correctly — which can’t always be done by following test results — is crucial to their success, Lovejoy said.

“Studies have shown that students do better when they have early access to college-level classes rather than enrolling in remedial classes,” she told trustees.

The new onboarding process was designed to provide more support earlier in the enrollment process to help all students develop a program of study that will set them on a path to a career or achieving their education goals.

Onboarding students — the process of introducing students to Peninsula College, helping integrate them into the college community and providing them with information and resources — has been changed, the group said.

It is no longer a straight line from application to enrollment, but a more circular one in which students receive more intensive support before they register for classes and in this way put them on a path that will hopefully make it more likely they will complete their plan of study.

Existing process: 1. Application; 2. Financial Aid; 3. Placement; 4. Orientation; 5. Advising; 6. Registration.

Revised process: 1. Advising; 2. Application; 3. Orientation — Financial Aid — Placement — Advising; 4. Registration.

“This is something that we can implement as part of the college’s Guided Pathways focus this fall,” Peet said.

In other news, the trustees approved tenure for three instructors: T. Nicholas Jones (chemistry), Anna King (childhood education) and Sam Zwenger (biology).

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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