UI’s four-year plan more popular


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When University of Iowa junior Allison Andersen began college, she promised to be done in four years.

By signing onto the UI’s Four Year Plan, she was hoping to save money.

“It was a lot of pressure right off the bat, but I went through with it,” she said.

A growing number of UI students are opting to make the same vow, and they are more likely to fulfill it.

In 1995, when the UI implemented its four-year graduation plan, more than 52 percent of incoming freshmen signed on. In 2009, around 71 percent of the freshman class pledged to finish in that time.

The plan has proved more successful over time, too.

In 2009, more than 46 percent of students had finished in four years, according to the UI Registrar’s Office. Before UI implemented the four-year plan, 1995, the average four-year rate was 33 percent, the university says.

Introduced to incoming freshmen during their summer Orientation, the plan is discussed when they meet their academic adviser for the first time.

The idea was initially created to ensure students made certain checkpoints to obtain their degree in four years, said Pat Folsom, the director of the UI Academic Advising Center.

“When students sign the plan, it provides framework and academic planning for them, and makes their education more intentional,” Folsom said.

The plan is open to UI students in certain majors, but it does not cover second majors or minors. After signing the plan, students must work with their advisers to ensure they fulfill the appropriate coursework.

Because the plan is a contract, the UI guarantees graduation in four years if students complete all available courses.

Statewide, other universities give their incoming freshmen an opportunity to sign a similar, but sometimes more lenient, contract.

The University of Northern Iowa previously had a four-year plan, called the “Grad Pact,” which is being transformed into a new five-year strategic plan, said university spokesman Rebecca Shultze.
UNI’s four-year graduation rate is around 35 percent.

Iowa State University has a contract known as the “Eight-Semester Plan.”

At ISU, a four-year plan was hard to implement because many of the students aren’t on the campus for four-consecutive years, university Registrar Kathy Jones wrote in an e-mail.

Many students go off campus for a semester for internships, which contributes to the difficulty of graduating in four years, she said.

In 2009, fewer than half of the graduating class of roughly 4,000 had finished in four years.

But despite a decline at regent universities, some UI students said they’re pleased with the plan.

UI sophomore Eileen Marshall said she’s glad she was strongly encouraged to sign the plan, and she urges incoming freshmen to do the same.

“It gives a guideline that helps students stay on track, especially if they want to graduate in four years,” she said.

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