audit conducted by The University of Southern Mississippi has found
human error to be the cause for discrepancies in its initial enrollment
figures for the fall semester. Administrators ordered a review of
the university's implementation of the continuous enrollment policy
after flaws became apparent in early November.
enrollment policy was originally established by the faculty's Graduate
Council to help graduate students maintain contact with the university
throughout their graduate studies. As outlined in the university's
2003-04 Graduate Bulletin, the policy also allows master's, specialist
and doctoral students access to university and faculty resources
and encourages timely completion of graduate degrees.
the policy has been in effect for many years at Southern Miss, it
has not been consistently enforced. After acknowledging the faculty
and fiscal resources required to support graduate education and
to assist graduate students with obtaining their degrees, university
administrators decided to enforce the policy in an attempt to collect
relevant tuition revenues for the fall 2003 semester.
enforce the enrollment policy were presided over by the Office of
Institutional Research under the direction of Dr. Susan Siltanen,
formerly associate dean of the Graduate School. Southern Miss Provost
Dr. Tim Hudson said it was brought to the administration's attention
last month that there were "inconsistencies regarding the actions
that were to be taken and the actions that were actually taken."
investigation found the following flaws in the implementation of
the continuous enrollment policy: the university fully recognizes
that the query of students was inaccurate, was not correctly validated
and was not shared with the graduate adviser in each department.
It also acknowledges the graduate student pool was not notified
about its placement in the placeholder course (in compliance with
continuous enrollment standards). It has also been discovered that
because students were not notified by the university and thus did
not pay tuition fees, many of them were automatically dropped from
Due to the
problems in successfully implementing the continuous enrollment
policy, Dr. Siltanen has tendered her resignation as director of
the Institutional Research Office. As a valuable member of the university
family, Dr. Siltanen will maintain her role as a tenured faculty
member, President Dr. Shelby Thames said. "She has had a successful
career here at Southern Miss, and we expect that to continue,"
the role human error played in the implementation of the policy,
Dr. Hudson said that in no way were Dr. Siltanen's actions intended
to harm students, faculty or the university. "No student's
academic or financial records were negatively impacted. This is
a situation of human error that has unfortunate consequences for
the university," he said.
To aid in its
review of the enrollment reporting process and the implementation
of the revised continuous enrollment plan, the university has requested
from the Board of the Institutions of Higher Learning the services
of Dr. Phil Pepper, assistant commissioner of Economic Research.
"We want to make sure that every number coming from our university,
whether it is regarding enrollment, retention or graduation rates,
is 100-percent accurate," Thames emphasized.
numbers for all state universities will be submitted to the IHL
on Dec. 15. Numbers submitted at the start of classes in September
were preliminary figures subject to fluctuations from dropped or
added classes, nonpayment and withdrawals.
has adopted plans to remedy flaws in the execution of the continuous
enrollment policy for subsequent semesters. Actions to be taken
will include reviewing the policy with the Graduate Council; compiling
and thoroughly analyzing the records of graduate students who fit
the criteria for continuous enrollment and notifying the correct
students regarding the continuous enrollment policy; and enrollment
needs and billing intentions of the university. Remedial actions
will also include assessing the records of students who have not
completed their degree programs but have not yet enrolled in any
other course; working with academic departments to enroll graduates
in an appropriate course at a specified, pre-announced time, should
they fail to otherwise comply with disseminated policy and procedure;
and billing those students for the one-hour course as is consistent
with the continuous enrollment policy.
who have had experience with graduate studies praised the continuous
enrollment policy, saying it provides a much-needed service to students
pursuing their advanced degrees.
been working with graduate students for 28 years," said Willie
Pierce, dean of the College of Education and Psychology. "This
policy has been on the books for a number of years but until now
it was hard to track the students. With the data capabilities we
have now, we can and should keep up with them and continuously enroll
them, which allows us to offer services to them such as continuous
involvement with the faculty and library and technology resources.
This is consistent with many universities across the country."
said because the continuous enrollment policy is both "faculty
and student friendly and legitimizes the use of faculty, staff and
university resources," Southern Miss will move forward with
Added Dr. Thames,
"It has been and continues to be our policy to make every decision
in the best interest of our students. We have identified and acknowledged
the mistakes, and we will move forward knowing that those same mistakes
will never be repeated."