University of Iowa President Sally Mason has called on the university to offer three-year bachelor’s degree options to help ambitious, talented students complete their studies earlier, save money, and get a head start on their careers.
Mason announced her proposal on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Iowa Board of Regents meeting in Ames.
“We want to ensure all our students have the chance to succeed and that is what this option is all about—success.”
Three-year degrees would require the same number of credits as four-year options, but offer advising and plans of study that help students fulfill requirements more quickly. Participating students would save money on tuition, housing, and other expenses, while progressing more quickly to jobs or graduate or professional programs.
“I believe this is an innovative way to help some of our students earn their degrees faster, while maintaining academic rigor, so they can graduate sooner and begin a productive and enriching working life,” Mason says.
“We are very excited about this idea to make college more affordable for our students, their families, and our state,” the UI president adds. “We want to ensure all our students have the chance to succeed and that is what this option is all about—success.”
The three-year degree proposal builds on the university’s Four-Year Graduation Plan, which has helped produce graduation rates that exceed the national average.
In 2014, the UI four-year graduation rate reached 51.1 percent. That’s higher than the six-year graduation rate for public four-year universities, which is 49.9 percent, according to the Regents’ most recent graduation and retention report. The UI’s six-year graduation rate is 69.6 percent.
This fall, all new UI students in qualifying majors—all but nine fields—automatically are enrolled in four-year plans. The university guarantees they can graduate in four years if they remain on track with advising and academic progress requirements.
The three-year degree proposal would include summer study, taking advantage of the Summer Hawk Tuition Grant awarded to all new students. The grant covers up to 12 semester hours of summer tuition for students from Iowa, or the difference between resident and nonresident tuition for students from other states.
UI Provost Barry Butler will lead the program’s development. UI colleges that enroll undergraduates have expressed interest and support.
“I know our campus is up to the challenge and I look forward to what provost Butler, his team, and the campus develop,” Mason says. “We want to provide our students with flexible options that best fit their needs and goals.”
The call for three-year programs recognizes that some students come to the university with specific goals, existing college credit, and the preparedness and discipline to pursue a heavier course load.
Three-year programs won’t fit every student or every major. Some fields require lab-based or capstone courses, or fixed course sequences that take more than four years to complete.
This fall, the university expects to identify the first group of academic programs suitable for three-year plans, making the new options available to students who enroll for fall 2015.
“It is an exciting time to be a Hawkeye,” Mason says. “We look forward to seeing what the next generation of alumni will achieve with their University of Iowa degrees.”