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University must help students 'Finish in Four'


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dan Cassino

By Dan Cassino
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 27, 1999
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Graduating in four years is not just a realistic goal, but a very important one. However, students alone often cannot achieve this goal: they increasingly need the support of the university.

Despite what UA President Peter Likins says, graduating in four years is not a thing of the past. It is still as important and as relevant as it always has been. But graduating in four years is not always something that a student can do alone; modern students are not able to dedicate themselves to school in the way that their parents and grandparents were. Only about 1.2 percent of students participate in the university's Finish in Four program every year.

There are good reasons for this. Today, most students have to work in order to support themselves. To graduate in four years under these circumstances, students must be dedicated, but the university must be dedicated as well. It must introduce new programs and concepts to facilitate students' achievement of this important goal.

A four-year term is absolutely a realistic goal for most students. There will always be some students that will need to work full time in order to support themselves. For them, it may be very difficult to complete their degrees in four years without a level of dedication and discipline that few students have.

In the same way, there will always be students who will not need to work. For them, graduating in four years shouldn't be a problem. Any difficulties they might have come from within rather than outside, and there is little that the university can do to help them.

For the most part, students don't fall into either of these categories. They work part time after class in order to support a modest lifestyle and pay their tuition. It is with this group that we need to be concerned.

Today, many of these students don't graduate in four years. If the university really wants to help them, there are steps that can be taken in order to do so.

Of all of the departments, the Karl Eller College of Business and Public Administration is a model of what can be done to improve students' chances of graduating in four years. Roughly half of the students enrolled in the Finish in Four program come from the business college, and it is enlightening to look at what programs of the college have contributed to the success of its students.

According to the assistant dean of the college, it is the structure of the first two years of the students' studies that facilitate the students' participation in the Finish in Four program. Apparently, students coming into the college told the administration that they wanted to finish their degrees in four years. In a move that seems to be rare for university administration, they listened. They established a system under which students need to complete two year's worth of "foundation" courses in order to continue on in their major.

Based on this success, the university should establish a similar system. All students within a college should have a standardized set of classes that exposes them to all of the options open to them in their college, as well as giving them a general overview of other topics. This isn't any huge reform, just a natural extension of the goals of the university wide general education curriculum.

The university already provides a large number of requirements that it generally recommends that students get out of the way early. Why not formalize this activity?

Every student's first few semesters should be filled with the foundation classes of the general education curriculum, 100-level English courses, basic math courses and the foreign language classes required by every college. In this way, if a student decides to change majors during the first few years, there will be no negative ramifications. This would enable students to participate in the Finish in Four program much more easily. Also, upper division students will be able to concentrate totally on their major, rather than having to take general education classes unrelated to their major in order to graduate.

Simply put, the College of Business and Public Administration has developed a model that has allowed it's students to graduate in four years. It has shown that finishing in four is a realistic and relevant goal. If the university wants all students to do the same, it should follow the college's lead.

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