This year, Dr. Destler charged the Student Success Steering Committee with looking into the Student Leave of Absence (LOA) Policy with the intention of ensuring that the implementation of the policy still supports student success and also counts them correctly based on new counting methods. This policy is very important to the success of our students and their progression in their degrees, and there are real consequences to taking an LOA for the student and RIT.
One of the misconceptions regarding LOAs is that it helps retention. In fact, of the students who take LOAs in their first year, 1 in 4 do not return as 2nd years, and only 1 in 5 complete their degrees and graduate. Many departments also believe that all LOAs must be automatically approved but this is also not true. In studying other universities’ practices, the committee saw that providing a “high-touch” advising approach to handling LOA requests actually reduces the number of LOAs granted and increases the chances for the students to persist in their program and finish their degree successfully and within a reasonable timeframe. The new LOA policy outlines and mandates this high-touch advising meant to promote better and frequent communication with the student, providing an opportunity to show struggling students ways to salvage a bad semester by utilizing on-campus resources, ensure an easy return to their program, and provide a plan of work upon returning that keeps them on track. In this way, LOAs become a tool for a student if needed, not an escape plan.
Please review the proposed policy for Student Leave of Absence, attached. The policy has grown from just a couple of paragraphs into about two pages, outlining the processes for how to handle Voluntary (Planned and Immediate) LOAs, and Involuntary LOAs. We are gathering feedback about this new policy, so please forward all comments, suggestions, and questions to the Staff Council Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from all of you.