Students given second chance at degree with ‘Fresh Start’ program

Michael Bray

Washburn students who have been unsuccessful in their first effort to obtain a college education can take advantage of Washburn’s Academic Fresh Start program. The policy, initiated June 12, 1985, allows students who have been away from Washburn for at least three years to return with a clean record.

Students admitted under the Fresh Start policy starts over as freshmen with no credits attempted, no credits earned and no grade point average earned. Their prior academic record remains part of the student’s overall transcript but is not calculated into their grade point average. No credits earned at Washburn or another school prior to the fresh start will be applied toward graduating from Washburn. Prior high grades cannot be transferred to the Fresh Start transcript. The transcript will indicate “Academic Fresh Start” and the date it was granted. A Washburn student is granted only one Academic Fresh Start.

An Academic Fresh Start student must enroll in Interdisciplinary Studies 100 – The College Experience during the student’s first semester. The class covers time management, study skills, reading skills, note-taking skills, communicating with professors and how to choose a major. The course is an elective and is worth two hours of credit.

Washburn students drop out of school for different reasons. Some work at a job, some travel or go into therapy. Some have parental responsibility. Some need to take care of a person at home who is ill.

John, who preferred not to have his last name released, is a 30-year-old Washburn student majoring in physical education. He left Washburn in 1997 on academic probation. At the time, his GPA was 1.0.

After six years of working at a Topeka drug store, John decided to return to school.

“I needed to get going if I was going to get it done,” said John.

When he dropped out in 1997, John had not heard of Academic Fresh Start. Meredith Kidd, Washburn dean of students, informed John about the policy in 2003. John applied for and was granted Academic Fresh Start.

“It’s a great opportunity for people who were not mature enough or for some reason were not able to handle college to start all over again,” said John.

John says he is now a much better student and will be graduating in a year and a half. His GPA is now 3.30.

“An unsuccessful Fresh Start is very rare,” said Lori Spurgeon, Washburn academic advisor. “Students getting a Fresh Start usually have matured and are ready for college.”

Spurgeon says that 20 to 25 students per year are granted Fresh Start and that the program is very successful. She says that if a student is getting D’s and F’s, that student is the one for Academic Fresh Start.

Some students must weigh the pros and cons of the program if they have had some success prior to considering Fresh Start. Finances can be an issue. A student may not be able to afford taking classes again. However, Fresh Start does not effect a student’s financial aid status.

Tom Averill, Washburn English department professor, looks at Academic Fresh Start as a gift to those students overcoming obstacles and difficulties.

“A student comes back to Washburn-we want you as you are and will not penalize you for what you were then,” said Averill.