CARBONDALE — The SIU STARS program to help struggling students in the SIU College of Business is turning heads in Carbondale and at other universities, Jill Gebke said.

Gebke, the director of enrollment management, and Tabitha Stone, chief academic officer, in the College of Business will present the model of the Steps Toward Academic Responsibility and Success program in October at the National Academic Advisory Association conference in Nashville, Tenn.

The program is still relatively new, starting in fall 2011, but so are the results.

The program takes students with a grade point average below 2.0 on academic suspension, the last step before being kicked out of school, and works with them to achieve academic success. She said more than half the students who commit to the program work their way out of suspension and some even get their averages above 3.5, earning a spot on the dean’s list.

“Those are life changing events,” Gebke said. “It’s amazing.”

Students in the program must sign an agreement to fully commit and when signing up must give reasons why they have declined to the point of reaching suspension. Stone said some of the reasons include personal issues, financial problems or lack of support. While the program cannot fix all of a struggling student’s woes, staff can direct students to support services at the university for help.

Other criteria in the program include having to meet with faculty after class to confirm attendance. Gebke said such tactics are extremely effective as it forces the students to converse with their teachers, and it also creates the opportunity for faculty to get to know struggling students better.

Stone said sometimes students even get their grades up but transfer to another college. She said that is still a success because it keeps students at SIU, and the attitudes of those who complete the program successfully undergo a major change.

“The difference (in the students) between fall ’11 and today is night and day,” Stone said.

Originally students signed up for a semester but the program now follows students throughout the academic year. Stone said some students successfully increase their grades but continue to apply for the program because they rely on the support.

Gebke said the college is not yet equipped to handle more than the students who are on academic suspension, but she said she would like to see it grow to include students on academic probation. The limited resources are the only drawback right now as the program generally costs less than $500 per semester.

Gebke said other colleges on campus have inquired about the program, as have other universities.

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