New University of Texas Initiative Pushes Students to Graduate in Four Years

Last week, the University of Texas announced its goal to raise four-year graduation rates within the next five years. Currently, 51% of UT students graduate within four years, according to The Daily Texan. The school’s Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates plans to boost that number by 20% in a mere half-decade, and has come up with a list of recommendations designed to push four-year graduation rates to 70% by 2016.

This move comes at a time when higher education is under intense scrutiny, especially since the Obama administration has called on higher education institutions to help America regain the world lead in college degree attainment, according to The Washington Post. In addition, the push to get incoming freshman students to graduate in four years rather than the more common six years (while only 51% of UT students graduate in four years, 80% graduate in six years) should result in added benefits. For example, students who graduate sooner can begin their careers or graduate education earlier, and they’ll also have less student loan debt because they won’t be in school and paying tuition for any additional years, the Task Force’s statement said.

To get the initiative off the ground, the 14-member Task Force — comprised of faculty members and five students — made several suggestions to reduce the number of six-year graduates, including:

  • Making orientation mandatory for all incoming first-year students
  • Developing a better online tool for students to track their degree completion progress
  • Address the problem of "bottlenecking" in courses that students must take to graduate, but cannot enroll in because of the lack of available seats
  • Discourage students from changing majors after four semesters
  • Increase tuition for students who have met the required number of credits to graduate, but have not graduated

University President Bill Powers has already decided to implement some of the recommendations right away, such as making orientation attendance mandatory for all new freshman students. Other measures, such as launching a better online tool for students to track their degree completion progress and enacting a way to make late major changes more difficult, will require more consideration and development time.

Though this particular movement is limited to just the University of Texas at Austin campus, students enrolled in other schools across the nation should be on the lookout for similar changes and initiatives in the coming years. The push for more college students to graduate sooner is a strong one, so more schools may begin cracking down on those who take longer than four years to complete their undergraduate education.

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