TRUSU: Courses impacting retention

If students were in charge at TRU, their first priority would be to improve the courses offered

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

If students were in charge at Thompson Rivers University, their first priority would be to improve the courses offered.

In a report to TRU’s senior management from the student union, five concerns were identified: frequency, a lack of summer courses, scheduling conflicts, lack of capacity and course changes and cancellations.

The TRU Students’ Union (TRUSU) gathered the information through a survey and town hall meetings.

The main concern was a lack of specific desired courses and programs that followed through in years offered, disciplines and themes, a lack TRUSU said could be impacting student retention, an issue the university administration agreed is a concern.

More than one-third of respondents said they were dissatisfied with course offerings and 75 per cent identified the issue as a key priority.

Anecdotally, for example, the report refers to a nursing student who had to change to another institution for the specialized courses she wanted and a trades student who could not access the programming he wished to pursue.

The report said TRU needs to have consistency and not offer some courses every two years.

It also needs to update its calendar, a publication that includes courses available, because there are listings no longer offered.

In the psychology and philosophy programs, the report notes examples of the issues students face. Some have had to postpone graduation because necessary courses weren’t available annually.

A written response sent to KTW stated TRU needs to have “a minimum number of students in a class to make offering it financially viable.

“This leads to several of the problems students have identified, such as offering courses only in alternating years.”

TRU is changing the scheduling software it uses to one it hopes will solve some of the problems.

A second priority is academic advising, TRUSU said.

The main concern is students facing long waits to see an advisor.

It suggested improving the appointment process to make it easier and expand the hours beyond traditional workday hours.

One respondent suggested academic advising be shared among faculty and even senior students because the current system gives only department heads the responsibility to approve high-level courses.

One-third of participants in the study said they felt advisors did not have the information they were seeking and would provide inaccurate information, sometimes to the point it affected a student’s progression to graduation.

TRU administration again agreed and noted it is starting

a review of student services.

Online resources are being improved and work has begun on a communication plan “to more proactively react to the

students’ advising needs” using new software.

The third priority identified is parking. Three-quarters of respondents expressed dissatisfaction and said it needs to be more affordable.

One student, for example, said “If students are paying $250 a semester for parking, that should guarantee a spot.”

Administration agreed, but said the hope is the university moves away from the need for parking slots by using alternate transportation including carpooling, transit and bicycles.

TRU is collaborating with the student union to create car-pooling incentives and, “sensitive to the financial situation many students find themselves in,” is setting parking rates at par with the city and Impark.

Lot N has also been expanded.

The data was drawn from a survey TRUSU conducted from Feb. 13 to March 7, which had 301 respondents.