Degree planner allows students to plan for graduation early

Sonoma State has instituted a new online degree planner that will allow students to plan their path all the way to graduation. The degree planner shows necessary courses by semester and allows for adjustments based on personal preferences.

The degree planner will make registration easier and could potentially raise the four-year graduation rate. Data from the degree planner will be available to the departments, allowing them to plan the courses offered around what students plan to take.

“It gives students a voice in the curriculum planning process,” said Sean Johnson, senior director of Reporting and Analytics at Sonoma State. “Before, the departments didn’t have a way to identify how many students wanted to take a specific class at a specific time.” Johnson oversaw the degree planner project, which was part of the California State University’s E-Advising Initiative, along with the Seawolf Scheduler.

Students can import their information from the degree planner to the Seawolf Scheduler, where they can then plan their courses for that semester. The degree planner does not plan your schedule by section, professor or time. Instead, it shows what courses students should take for that semester, regardless of whether it’s full.

The degree planner, accessible via MySSU, adjusts based on personal preferences, such as how many units a student wants to take each semester or when a student wants to take a particular course. Students can also view different scenarios if they were to add a minor or change their major. 

Wilson Hall, the incoming Associated Students president said, “The degree planner is a great first step towards improving our four-year graduation rate, one that I’m happy to have been a part of on the academic advising subcommittee this year. But students still crave an interpersonal connection. We need a face to pair with the degree planner, someone we can go to for guidance, and that’s an advisor.”

Donna Garbesi, an adviser for the Hutchins program and the School of Arts and Humanities says she thinks the degree planner will be useful. “The type of advising questions that I get routinely is ‘What order should I take my classes in?’ Students often want help planning a two or three-year-plan,” Garbesi said. “It’s nice to have this tool where they can arrange it in a logical fashion rather than them randomly putting things in that they think might work.”

Garbesi expressed a similar sentiment to Hall, noting that the degree planner doesn’t make advising obsolete. “College is not just registering for classes and checking off boxes. It’s about your education, and getting advising from a real human being can only enrich that,” Garbesi said.

When students lay out their schedule from now until graduation, the system makes assumptions about when Sonoma State offers courses despite possible changes. Since the courses laid out are so far in advance, students should understand the path laid out by the degree planner is flexible.

Departments will be able to plan better the more students use the degree planner. Using it isn’t required to register, but if more students use the tool, then it will be more accurate.

The two main benefits of the degree planner are to make it easier for students to see their path to graduation, and to give students a voice in what classes Sonoma State offers. Johnson said he is excited about the degree planner making registration easier for students. “Between the degree planner and the scheduler, if everything goes perfectly you could register in three clicks,”  he said.