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The Board of Regents recently approved a $200,000 budget cap for an update to Northwest Success 360 and the Degree Audit system in CatPAWS.

The Student Success software will be added into Northwest Success 360, which will help students create their four-year plans and automatically enroll students in their classes for preregistration.

The new software is not going to be a completely new platform, but rather an update for Northwest Success 360. The current version of Northwest Success 360 is used to make appointments with professors and allows faculty to see how students are doing in classes.

The update will allow this system to work together with the Degree Audit system and help organize a four-year plan for students.

“One of the features of the software will allow students to develop their academic plan,” said Allison Hoffman, Northwest's director of academic success and retention. “As you make changes and you move courses around, it’ll move and change with you.”

This update will allow students to easily be able to see how changing their schedules or dropping classes will affect their time at Northwest. Hoffman gave an example: If a student were to drop a course that is only offered in the spring, the student can preview the drop first to see how it might affect their expected graduation date. 

The goal of this update is to help students retain, persist and complete their degree as efficiently as possible.

On Sept. 3, Northwest Regent Jason Klindt was the only one to vote no to the $200,000 measure. 

“My vote reflects my top concern, which is college affordability,” Klindt said in an email. “Every dollar you add to the budget is paid for by the state or students.”

Klindt said state funding is more uncertain now than ever before due to COVID-19, and he said he believes it is more important to worry about funds as opposed to the program.

According to an article by the National Conference of State Legislatures, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education institutions faced unexpected costs and potential revenue reductions. Some of these costs can include refunds for room and board, increased cleaning operations and increased technology costs. Northwest paid close to $4.2 million dollars in room and board refunds last semester after shifting classes online in March -- though $2.4 million of those costs were offset by institutional CARES Act funding. 

Klindt said he doesn’t think the software is a bad idea, but he doesn’t think now is the right time to work on it because of financial uncertainty.

“We need to think in terms of must-haves and nice-to-haves,” Klindt said in an email.

The $200,000 approved Sept. 3 is a budget cap for the software. Provost Jamie Hooyman said when building the software and programming it, the cap cannot be exceeded.

“We don’t know what it’s gonna cost,” Hooyman said. “What we do is give an amount that we will not go over.”

The Student Success staff is still trying to refine everything they want the update to have. Hoffman said there’s a lot they’re trying to accomplish with the update and it is imperative they figure out the big things they want out of it.

Once this is determined, funding will come into play as they look for software developers to help with coding and making the idea a reality.

“Anything we do at the University that’s a large ticket item, like software, you always have to go out for bid,” Hooyman said, “so what we have to do is write specs, and that’s the process we’re going through now.”

Another feature the Student Success team wants from this software update is to allow Northwest to see what classes are in high demand.

“On our end … it also will help us with scheduling,” Hooyman said. “So we’ll have a good indication of how many classes we’ll need the next semester.”

Hooyman gave an example discussing English classes. If a large number of students need to take English 101 one semester, then they’ll be able to make more English 101 classes available.

The University aims to introduce the update to students in fall 2021. There will be online videos made for upperclassmen to learn how to use the new software. Learning the updated version will also be added to the University Seminar class all freshmen are required to take.

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