At most universities, if students' marks are too low, they're required to withdraw and it leaves them with no other alternatives to pursue further education. However, the University of Alberta is now offering a special program to help students who find themselves in a similar situation.
The Fresh Start program, now in its second year, gives students who were required to withdraw an opportunity to boost their GPAs to a satisfactory level and re-enter university. Eligible students cannot apply to the program, rather they are selected through faculty recommendations.
"The greatest benefit to the students is that they get to take regular U of A courses on campus as they try to raise their GPA to satisfactory, or better, and then reapply," said program director Dr. Marsha Padfield. "They also get counselling and academic advising support, and a required course on academic skills."
University of Calgary Students' Union Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides believes the program is a good idea.
"High tuition prices, stressful work and class loads can often lead to the downgrading of a student's academic performance and thus the university [of Calgary] should be making the extra effort to ensure that its students can survive."
The real focus of the program is to help smart, capable students get back on their feet following a rough start to their post-secondary experience. The institution also benefits.
"The advantage to the university is that these talented students aren't lost," Dr. Padfield pointed out.
"I think the program is a terrific idea and may be a worthwhile project that the university can embark on, which the SU would probably be more than willing to assist with," said Nicolaides.
Completing the Fresh Start program does not guarantee students will automatically be accepted back into the regular programs at the university.
"They have to reapply to a degree program following their Fresh Start year," said Dr. Padfield. "There's no guaranteed admission, they have to meet the competitive average of the program they apply to."
Currently, the program is the only one of its kind in Canada. Since there is no such program at the U of C, students who are required to withdraw have limited options. According to Student Rights Advisor Patti Spady, students can put together an appeal within 15 days of receiving their required-to-withdraw letter, though there is no guarantee that it will be granted. For many required-to-withdraw students, they find themselves in extenuating circumstances that cause their academic troubles, and Spady often recommends counselling--which is a required component of Fresh Start.
"It would be terrific to see something similar at U of C," said Spady.