MU Academic Program Gains National Attention
The Study Plan Coordinator (SPC) Program started at MU 11 years ago when founder and organizer Yve Solbrekken found her workload was getting too heavy. Solbrekken helped students with time management and study practices. As more and more students began signing up to work with her, she realized there was a pattern in students’ needs. She then hired student tutors to take over the job and called them SPCs. The individualized program provides students with resources ranging from a step-by-step study plan and a grade calculator all the way to a well-structured hour-by-hour schedule.
Solbrekken didn’t realize SPCs would be so in demand. “Academic coaching is a big catchphrase right now in the United States,” Solbrekken said. “The SPC program is a form of academic coaching that’s just really efficient, really economical.”
In order to keep the bills low, Solbrekken hires students, who are less expensive than professional tutors. But students actually have a leg-up over possible professional tutors.
“[Students] are more impacted by what their peers do than by what some older adult is telling them would be good or not to do,” Solbrekken said.
The student SPCs, cost effectiveness and overall program have captured the attention of other universities in the country. Solbrekken said parents, professors and administrators have reached out to her asking about her specific documents she designed for the program. Solbrekken speaks at conferences in the United States and has inspired other schools to institute their own versions of the MU-created SPC program. Solbrekken said one of the most important aspect schools need to instill in their own programs is the students’ self-made decision to meet with SPCs.
“In my world, what I believe and what my programs do is, I believe we should be there to support them in every way they need,” Solbrekken said. “But that it should always be their choice.” That way, students won’t feel pressured into attending SPC appointments and also possibly express more enthusiasm for their own educational goals.
Students can sign up for free online for and SPC appointment at the MU Student Success Center.
Host Intro: Welcome to Exam on KBIA where we talk everything education. I’m Kassidy Arena. This week I spoke with Yve Solbrekken, the founder and organizer of the Study Plan Coordinator or SPC program at MU. Solbrekken’s idea of guaranteeing students success in higher education has slowly been making its way across the country.
Solbrekken: So when we would do this, I would meet with them, we would talk about what issues they were having in their classes, and put together plans for success for them. And as I did this, more and more, I got more referrals sent to me, more than I could handle. And I also found that I was doing similar things from one student to the next. There are some basic, basic things that every student needs and it was...I sort of formulated that into something that was packaged, and I realized I could try to address this expanding need by hiring some folks to do that. So I hired some of my tutors to also help with this and I call them Study Plan Consultants, and it grew.
Host: Why are programs like these important for students?
Solbrekken: Academic coaching is a big catchphrase right now in the United States, at universities across the country. And when I go to conferences, and I present on these things, it's basically under the umbrella of academic coaching. The SPC program is a form of academic coaching that's just really efficient, really economical. It can be scaled to any size university. And because of that, this program has gotten a lot of attention for the fact that everyone's losing funding everywhere, [they're] worried about funding at least and wanting things that are more economical. It's a win win, win, win win.
Host: Why is that self selection so important for students?
Solbrekken: You know, I really appreciate that question. Because a lot of the academic coaching classes are programs. A lot of them are in classes that are run right now, and are somewhat mandated, you know, either you are literally required to meet with them or to take part in this course. Or it's so strongly recommended that you really don't know the difference. So you sort of take it along with, say, a math class like pre algebra, something that you're trying to kind of get caught up in some of the areas that you would like to come into college already having. So I don't love mandating things to students because they are legal adults. And so we have a big conversation across the country, with educators and with parents and with students. You know, what is handholding a student too much? But what is not supporting a student enough? In my world, what I believe and what my programs do is, I believe we should be there to support them in every way that they need. But that it should always be their choice, it should always be their option to go or not go, you're not going to be penalized in some way for not coming to the SPC program. It's up to you. So I think for all of us as adults, including our students in college, it's important to have a lot of options and to know what is everything that can be done for you, and then to choose to take part in it or not.
Host: What helped you decide that SPC should be students and not faculty members or, you know, quote unquote, professionals?
Solbrekken: I think that's also key to the SPC programs, effectiveness and cost effectiveness. Clearly, it is cheaper to hire students. You know, for better or for worse, it is cheaper to hire students and some of my students, I'm telling you, they're amazing. They could be professionals. So it's cheaper for us. It makes it more economical at the same time, you don't have the professionals who come in there. You have one person hired full time to meet with all these students. With my SPCs, I've got a team of 10 to 13 SPCs at any given semester, where if you don't like one, you meet with a different one. And I can refer them to certain SPCs. And as we all know, for better or for worse, even as parents, by the time your kids are aged 12, 13 whatever and through college, they're more impacted by what their peers do than by what some older adult is telling them would be good or not to do. So this is more of a camaraderie… more of an ‘I've been there and done that’ kind of situation.
Host Outro: That was Yve Solbrekken, the founder of the SPC program at MU. Thanks for listening to Exam on KBIA. I’m Kassidy Arena.