Counselor staff shortage leads to change in graduation process

Jasmine Perez, Reporter

Earlier this month, California Lutheran University Faculty Advisers learned they will be responsible for approving their senior advisees for graduation.

Maria Kohnke, the associate provost of Academic Services & Registrar said in the past, seniors have met with their Student Success Counselor to go over their Degree Completion Agreement, followed by a meeting with their Faculty Adviser to ensure everything in the form is accurate.

Now seniors will meet with their Faculty Adviser first for approval.

“So this year, instead, seniors are going to meet with their Faculty Adviser, have an adviser meeting, and then we put the form online as a dynamic form,” Kohnke said. “So then… they’ll start the degree completion agreement form, they’ll go from … their Faculty Adviser to their student success counselor, and [the] Student Success Counselor will still do a complete audit with the file.”

Students will not meet with their Student Success Counselor unless they have additional questions, Kohnke added.

Kohnke said the reason for the change is a staffing shortage this year, as some of the counselors are on maternity leave.

There is also a vacant Student Success Counselor position; however, Cal Lutheran has placed a freeze on all hiring.

Erashel Vaiz, associate registrar of Student Success Services, sent an email Monday, Sept. 21 to all seniors detailing specific deadlines based on graduation date.

In the email Vaiz stated, “for students who plan to graduate this Fall 2020 semester, we highly recommend that you review your academic progress to make sure that you are currently enrolled in all of the remaining degree requirements,” and “for students who plan to graduate in the Spring or Summer 2021, we strongly encourage you to connect with your Faculty Advisor and complete the Degree Completion Agreement beginning on September 28, 2020.”

In an email interview, Kirk Lesh, assistant professor of Economics, said he’d advise all graduating seniors “to contact their faculty adviser as soon as possible. The sooner seniors get started the better off they will be.”

Lesh added that he has about 25-30 seniors with whom he will be walking through the Degree Completion Agreement.

The Echo reached out to Student Success Counselors for comment, but were referred to Kohnke.

“So we’ve changed the order to make sure … seniors could still start the process and go through it, and not be held up by the fact that counselors won’t be able to physically meet with every student,” Kohnke said. “And [to] get them down on the right timeline … so that students can still do what they need to do and not be affected by the fact that there was a shortage of staff on the on the Student Success Counselor side.”