Four-year graduation guarantee approved by officials

by Brian Bakst

Graduating by the year 2000 just became easier for some freshmen entering the University this fall.
Administrators announced Tuesday the University will offer a four-year graduation guarantee to freshmen in several programs. The plan, which was introduced at the July Board of Regents meeting, is another step toward fulfilling the goals of University 2000, President Nils Hasselmo’s restructuring plan.
“We must remove barriers to students who want a more intense, educational student experience,” Hasselmo said in July.
Although it is not impossible to graduate in four years, the University will try to help students who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to complete the task. Freshmen who sign up for the program will be guaranteed access to the classes they need to complete their graduation requirements.
If a student can’t get into a class because it is full, a section will be created or the student will be given priority the next quarter. If a student has to stay for more than four years because of a course, the University will pay the extra tuition.
Students will have to take an average of 15 credits per quarter to fulfill their part of the bargain.
But the University is not expecting all students who sign up for the program to finish in four years. In a letter to all incoming freshmen, Hasselmo said, “Your college education will be full of unexpected opportunities and some of these can’t fit into a four-year plan.”
There will be no punishment for students who sign up for the program but decide they cannot fulfill the expectations.
The program could make the University more attractive to prospective students. But Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marvin Marshak said the guarantee is not about what the University can gain, but what the University can do for students. “What you see is what you get,” Marshak said. “If it makes the University more attractive, fine.”
Some regents criticized the program, saying students who need to work while attending the University may not be accommodated. Therefore, it was argued the University may be seen as catering to an elite type of student without financial concerns.
But decreasing the time it takes for students to graduate has been high on the agenda of U2000. Currently, 15 percent of University students graduate in four years.
The Legislature has also pushed the University to improve the graduation time frame. In its 1995 session, the Legislature said it would give the University a $1 million allocation if it proved it was graduating more students in less than five years. State officials will measure improvement by comparing 1996 figures to those of 1994.
But not all freshmen will qualify for the four-year graduation guarantee program. Incoming College of Liberal Arts students, for instance, will have to test into the third quarter of a foreign language to be eligible. Majors such as nursing, engineering and computer science, some of which require more than 185 credits to complete, are excluded.
There are rules students admitted into the program must follow in order to remain eligible. Freshmen composition classes must be taken during the first year. Also, students must register within two days of their scheduled registration time, and program participants must meet with an adviser every year.