IOWA CITY — Many of the University of Iowa students who’ll converge on campus this fall will discover more options exist beyond the traditional four-year path to graduation and the standard fall-to-spring class schedule.
Over the last year, the university has debuted several alternatives paths and tools to completing a degree — depending on a student’s interests, goals, financial needs, and availability — including a Summer Hawk Tuition Grant, merged undergraduate and graduate programs, and even three-year degrees.
The hope is to make college more affordable and accessible by saving students on tuition and associated expenses — like fees, housing, and books.
UI President Mason in the fall announced plans to begin offering three-year bachelor’s degrees in fall 2015, and on Thursday she specified the majors available under the “Iowa Degree in Three” program.
Students majoring in communication studies, English, history, international studies, marketing, and theatre arts will have the option of pursuing a degree in the shortened time frame. After enrolling in the program and beginning classes, interested students will meet with advisers, establish “checkpoints” through their colleges and departments, and outline other requirements to keep them on track.
The three-year options require the same number credits as four-year degrees, but they’ll require students be more aggressive by taking a heavier course load and proceeding at a faster pace. For starters, students can use the university’s new summer grant program, which offsets the cost of resident tuition for summer study. And colleges and departments can approve alternate courses or waivers when necessary to expedite the student’s progress.
Mason said the first majors chosen for the three-year degree program are among the institution’s most popular.
“Many of these are big majors,” she said. “Many of these are majors that lots of students pursue.”
The program is designed for incoming first-year students, meaning transfer students are not eligible to sign up — although advising resources are available to all students to help accommodate a timely graduation.
The university might make the option available for other majors in the future. But, Mason said, the program is not for everyone. Some degrees require additional study that can’t be done in three years. And students wanting to double major would have a difficult time doing so on the quicker schedule.
“The four-year focus and our emphasis on student success in general have boosted our four-year graduation rate well above the national average,” Mason said. “The four-year plan remains a great fit for most students, but three-year degrees offer an exciting new option.”
The university’s four-year graduation rate reached 51.1 percent for undergraduate students who enrolled in 2009, representing the highest rate in recent history and topping rates at both Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa. Mason said that benefits the university under the Board of Regents proposed funding model, which ties some state dollars to graduation completion rates.
But moving students through college faster could hurt the campus under the new funding model, which ties a larger portion of the state funds to enrollment figures.
“I’m more interested in making certain that our students can be successful and do so as affordably as possible,” Mason said.
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