New program geared toward helping BYU students graduate

A concern that college students are either dropping out or taking increasingly longer to finish has prompted a new program at BYU to help students graduate.

Called Student Housing Initiatives in Education, or SHINE, the program focuses on what the university can do to help the students have a better overall educational experience.In fall semester 1993, SHINE will begin a pilot program to study whether an integrated academic and non-academic living environment can help students succeed at college and reduce the dropout rate.

Two Helaman Halls dorms - one men's and one women's - will be designated as "residence-centered learning communities." These halls will not be "honors halls" in the traditional sense. Instead, they will be designated as living/learning centers where students with a common core of classes can live and study together and have greater access to selected faculty members.

Students in these halls will be able to take several general education classes together, which will allow them to study and learn with a familiar group of people.

These classes will allow for more personal interaction between the professor and the students than is normally available. Students will be able to visit professors frequently in their offices or the residence halls. In addition, professors will eat dinner with class members at least once a week, providing an opportunity for informal discussions.

Teaching assistants also will be available during evening hours in the living areas to answer questions and provide assistance with papers and assignments.

Ted Hindmarsh, Student Auxiliary Services communication and academic administrator, said he believes the strength of the program is the camaraderie and friendships it will foster.

"We're not trying to create an elite group with this program," he said. "We just want to determine if this type of learning environment will help students more quickly adjust to the university and provide a support system that can last throughout their college experience."

Much of the motivation for the program, he added, springs from national figures indicating that only half of all students enrolled in college graduate. "BYU doesn't do much better than the national average."

With more students applying for admission than the university can accept, higher restrictions are being placed on those applicants who are admitted. Yet if enrolled students graduated in eight semesters instead of the typical 12 semesters at BYU, this would make room for 50 percent more students to attend the university, said Alan Keele, SHINE committee chair.

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