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Graduating in 4 years not realistic, Likins says

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 27, 1999
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The concept of university students earning their degrees in four years is an "old notion," UA President Peter Likins said on an interview show Sunday.

In a program that ran Sunday on KVOA-TV, Likins said students are taking longer to graduate because they don't want to take the necessary course load, the majority of students change their majors and most of today's students are working.

"Thirty years ago, in America, fewer high school grads went to college, but those who went generally attended school full-time, and often finished in four years. This ideal is rarely matched today," Likins said in an e-mail interview. "In that sense, the expectation of graduation in four years is an out-of-date concept."

The University of Arizona started its Finish in Four program in the fall of 1995 because students were graduating in an average of 5.3 years, Likins said.

To enter the program, a student must agree to several requirements, including taking a minimum of 15 credit hours each semester, choosing a major that qualifies for the four-year plan and remaining in good academic standing.

Once in the program, students sign a contract saying they will take at least 15 units a semester, and they must promise not to change their major.

Lynne Tronsdal, vice president of undergraduate admissions, said about 600 students participate in the program each year.

"600 out of 5,000 (freshmen) is not a huge percentage," Tronsdal said.

The Finish in Four program was created as a response to concerned parents who wanted their children to graduate in four years, Tronsdal said.

Tronsdal said the first class of participants of the program graduated in May and the Office of Institutional Research is compiling the results to determine the program's success.

The institute will compare the May graduates who entered in 1995 and participated in the program with those who didn't.

Likins said during Sunday's program that a very small fraction of the students actually sign up for the program because at least 80 percent of students change their major before they graduate.

Jeff Stevenson, a religious studies junior, said he agrees with Likins that it is difficult to graduate in four years.

"I work and my parents don't support me at all. It kind of cuts down on my study time," said Stevenson, adding that he will graduate in four and a half years.

Bryan Fork, a resource economics senior, said he was not pressured to graduate in four years.

"I've taken 12 units every semester because that's all I wanted to take. Plus I work 15 hours a week," Fork said.

Fork said the Finish in Four program is good for those students who are pressured to graduate in four years.

"I think it's important if you have to graduate, but if it's not important, then I say to take your time," Fork said.

Every college that offers four-year majors participates in the program, but students from the Karl Eller College of Business and Public Administration have made up about half of the Finish in Four participants, Tronsdal said.

Pam Perry, assistant dean of undergraduate programs in the college, said the college's organized curriculum makes it easier for students to participate in the program.

"It's very structured the first two years because (students) have to use those foundation courses to earn advanced standing," Perry said.

She said after the first two years, students are given a plan for the last two years listing all general education and professional courses they need to take to graduate.

"Most incoming students and their parents expressed (that) they wanted to finish in four. We show them a path," Perry said.

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