Department of Communications

Public Accountability

The Department of Communications at the University of North Alabama offers the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication, and the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Communication Arts.  The programs follow the education recommendations of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. ACEJMC is the agency responsible for the evaluation of professional journalism and mass communications programs in colleges and universities.  An accreditation review team has not yet visited the Mass Communication program at the University of North Alabama.  More information on the accreditation requirements can be found here:  http://www2.ku.edu/~acejmc/

The University of North Alabama received approval from the Alabama Communication on Higher Education (ACHE) to offer the BA/BS in Mass Communication in 2010; the program began accepting students in Fall 2010 under the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) category 09.0102.  The BA/BS in Communication Arts was reclassification in 2010 under the CIP category 09.0101. 

As part of our effort to provide public accountability of our programs, we provide the following data for prospective and currently enrolled students and their parents, for review by our educational peers, and for review by other interested parties.

Retention Rates

The percentages below indicate the first-year retention rates of students who declare the Department of Communications and mass communication as their program of study as an incoming freshmen and who returned as a communications major by Fall 2014.  We are aware of students who did return to the university but elected to change their majors from mass communication. 

Retention Rates for Entering First-Year Students in Mass Communication

Fall Term

First Year Students

Returned 2nd Year

2010

23

71.1%

2011

28

73.2%

2012

31

70.1%

2013

17

70.6%

 

Why is the freshmen number so much smaller for Fall 2013 than previous years?  We believe some students were incorrectly coded by the Admissions Office when they were enrolled.  We made a substantial number of corrections in the fall and spring semester during the advisement periods. 

 

According to UNA’s Office of Institutional Research, UNA’s freshman-to-sophomore retention averages 70% and is higher than the Alabama Peer average of 62%.  Both the four-year and six-year graduation rates are lower than the CSRDE average, but higher than the Alabama Peer average (Source: OIRPA, Performance-Based Ratios at UNA, Fall 2012).

 

Why don’t students return?  There are a number of reasons. Some UNA students don’t immediately return due to financial reasons—they may be working part-time and are unable to enroll the following fall but they return in the spring.  Still other students attend our university for general education classes and perhaps one or two classes in the major and then transfer elsewhere. While not specific to retention of mass communication students, OIRPA has found that among those students who did not return to UNA and who earned a UNA GPA of less than 2.0, almost 67% had inadequate college preparation based on high school GPA and ACT scores.

 

According to an eight-year trend for the university, there is a slight increase in retention across campus. Females demonstrated a higher retention rate (74.2%) than males (66.2%) in
2010. White students had a higher retention rate (73.4%) than Black students (59.9%), but not as high as Hispanic students (76.2%). Retention trends calculated by student ethnicity in mass communication are not yet tracked due to the size of the cohort.  (Source: OIRPA, Retention, Progress and Graduation at UNA, Spring 2012).

 

Graduation Rates

The Mass Communication and Communication Arts programs were initiated in 2010. The four-year graduation data for the mass communication program is shown below. Because our students often put themselves through school, we have shown other graduation rates beyond the four-year rate.

 

All students entering the Department of Communications were required to select either the BA/BS in Mass Communication or the BA/BS in Communication Arts beginning in Fall 2010.  During the Fall 2010 term, students previously studying in the Department of Communications were provided the opportunity to change to the new BA/BS in Mass Communication.  Many students stayed under their existing curriculum/catalog plan rather than change. Several did change; here are their graduation rates.

 

Term

Number of Students

4 Years for Graduation

5 Years for

Graduation

6 Years for

Graduation

Fa 2010-Su 2011

1

 

100%

 

Fa 2011-Su 2012

6

16.7%

33.3

50%

Fa 2012-Su 2013

23

47.8%

43.5%

8.7%

Fa 2013-Su 2014

37

46%

18.9%

35.1%

 

Graduation rates for the Department of Communications are substantially better than the graduation rates for the university.  There is awareness that steps need to be taken across the campus to improve student retention and graduation. The university has initiated efforts to improve student retention and to improve graduation rates. 

 

The retention efforts and graduation success program focus on an improved first year college experience for new students.  New on-campus housing is under construction and will open in Fall 2015 for entering freshmen. The university has opened a new Student Commons building that includes the University Success Center, improved dining options and amenities, supplemental instruction and assistance in composition and mathematics and a single location for student services, including financial aid and student on-campus employment. 

 

Less talked about but of perhaps greater significance to communications students was the approval of fewer required hours for graduation.  The graduation rates shown here reflect a curriculum requiring 128 credit hours for graduation.  Frankly, the semester math never worked properly to ensure graduation in four years.  A student would have needed to average between 15 – 17 hours each semester to graduate in four years (with an internship completed in the summer for 1 – 3 semester hours credit).  On a campus where four of every five students is working to pay for school, it was extremely difficult for a student to graduate from UNA in four years without enrolling in summer school. (See Table 9 Student Financial Aid for a complete look at the aid sources.)

 

Further delaying graduation, some students choose to take only 12 – 13 hours per term—against the recommendation of their advisors but needed to balance their school/work schedules.  Some of these students also attend school on a twelve-month cycle.  Students attending school in the summer must average slightly more than 9 hours each summer to graduate within four years.  Under the previous 128 credit hours program, a student completing 12 semester hours in fall and spring would have also needed to average nearly 12 semester hours to graduate in four years.

 

Many students declare a communication major upon enrolling at UNA but other students come to communication after a period of time in other majors. It is not uncommon to have students declare a public relations or journalism major after first trying education, nursing or a science area. Students with additional science or math courses have no difficulties counting those classes and credit hours as work completed from outside of communication and as approved arts and sciences classes.  However, students with hours in education or nursing sometimes need to add additional coursework in arts and sciences to meet mass communication graduation requirements.  (Under the original UNA mass communication degree proposal, 65 hours in approved arts and sciences classes were required, along with 80 hours from outside of communications.)  At a minimum, a mass communication student will complete 44 credit hours for journalism: multimedia or public relations and 41 hours for radio-television and interactive media. 

 

When course prerequisites are included in the change of major evaluation, it is not unusual to see a student who changes to a communications major late in the student process (after completing 70 or more hours) requiring more than four years to graduate.  For example, a journalism student would require three semesters to complete our COM 205 Communications in a Global Age and COM 215 Media Writing (first semester), COM 220 Basic Reporting (second semester) and COM 356 Advanced Reporting (third semester). The student would then complete the other series of concentration requirements, including an internship.

 

Students transferring from community colleges often come with 60 hours (UNA permits no more than one-half the hours needed for graduation to come from a junior institution). The department’s close advising and frequency of course offerings keep most of these students on schedule to graduate, provided they enroll in 14 – 15 hours per semester and complete the internship during the summer. 

 

As noted above, during the 2013 – 2014 academic year, the Department of Communications requested permission to decrease the number of hours needed for graduation to reflect a more commonly accepted national total of approximately 121 hours.  Then dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Vagn Hansen, supported the request—even extending the idea to other departments in A&S.  Effective with the Fall 2015 semester, students must earn only 121 hours.  This savings of seven semester hours put the semester course load in the range of 14 – 15 hours per semester, plus a summer internship for 1 – 3 hours. 

 

For the sake of schedule planning, the program is 121 hours rather than 120 to ensure that students have no difficulty completed the 72 hours from outside of communications.  121 hours minus 72 hours equals 49 hours.  This becomes up to 16 three-credit courses in their mass communications major plus the one credit COM 420 Communication Portfolio Preparation course. By the time the class of 2014 graduates, we believe there will be an improvement in the graduation rate.

 

Graduation Rates for the University of North Alabama:

 

Freshman Term

Four-Year Graduation

Six-Year Graduation

2004

12.5%

33.1%

2005

11.0%

33.3%

2006

11.0%

NA

2007

12.3%

NA

2008

12.0%

NA

 

Sources of Data:  University of North Alabama Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment and Department of Communications.