Program ensures timely graduation

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA administration wants to help more students graduate in four years.

With the help of a new program that begins in the fall, students and the university will work together, each following a set of agreements, to ensure that students who want to can graduate in four years.

Under Finish in Four!, the university agrees to assign all interested students an adviser who will know they are a Finish in Four! student. The UA will also provide an academic progress report each semester about the student's progress toward completing their degree and will improve class availability.

"The university is making a commitment to help students who want to graduate in four years do so," said Michael Gottfredson, vice provost of undergraduate education.

In return, the students must agree to meet with advisers each semester, complete at least 32 units per academic year, including summer if necessary, and declare a major during their first semester and stick with it.

"Graduating in four years has been a problem for many students, so we want to recognize the concerns people have and get rid of the obstacles," Gottfredson said. The university already closely monitors class availability, but plans to continue improving in that and the other areas of the agreement, he said.

Of the freshmen who enrolled at the UA in 1990, only 18 percent graduated in 1994, four years after they began at the university, said Rick Kroc, director of student research. Only 19 percent of the 1989 freshman graduated in four years, he said.

However, Gottfredson said the Finish in Four! program is "not for every student."

"A lot of problems with graduating in four years aren't really problems with the university, but are preferences of the students," Gottfredson said.

For example, he said students change their major late in their college career or want to study abroad for a semester or take additional elective units, which causes their graduation date to be postponed. Some students also need or want to work while they go to school, he said.

All freshman enrolling in the university next fall will receive information about Finish in Four! in the mail and will also hear about it at summer orientation sessions, Gottfredson said.

The students must decide at this time if they are interested in the program, although it is possible to graduate in four years without participating in the program, he said. Students who opt to join the program can choose not to continue at any time, he said.

The advising aspect of the program is "critical," Gottfredson said.

"Timely, correct advising is helpful particularly during a student's first year," he said. "An adviser can help students find the classes that apply toward their graduation requirements. Many students find it difficult to organize programs of study since the vast number of courses can be overwhelming. Advisers can help clarify this with students on a regular basis."

Sticking with a major also helps ensure timely graduation, especially if the change involves changing into a new college and a new set of general education requirements, he said.

The Advising Center for Exploratory Students offers major exploration programs for students who are undecided about their major.

"Starting into major exploration earlier and not changing several times will allow students to graduate more quickly than changing majors by trial and error," said Tony Straka, an ACES adviser. "If they put effort into deciding a major, they won't have to waste units on something they find out they don't like later."

ACES is open for walk-in advising every day, but is not an intensive advising partnership like the Finish in Four! program.

Last semester, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a separate proposal also aimed at making it easier for students to graduate in four years. Regent John Munger, who proposed the policy, said the degrees at the state's three universities should require no more than 120 units. All UA programs require between 125 and 166 units for graduation.

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