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Mason expresses support for accelerated-degree plan

BY IAN MURPHY | FEBRUARY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason expressed support for an accelerated bachelor’s degree, but not all legislators find the program to be feasible.

Democratic gubernatorial-nomination candidate Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, has proposed a plan as a part of his platform to help in-state students earn degrees in three years, as opposed to four.

“For us, we know the more [we] can do to keep students on track for a four-year graduation or even reduce that, which I think Sen. Hatch is really promoting in a very positive way,” Mason told The Daily Iowan. “We think those are all good ideas. The fewer semesters you spend in school, the less it costs you, right?”

Mason said students can still graduate in three years if they are exceptionally motivated.

“We need all colleges — public, private, and community colleges — to participate,” Hatch said.

Iowa has made an effort to lower student costs in specific colleges.

The UI College of Law recently implemented an accelerated “3+3” program that would provide students the chance to combine their last undergraduate year with the first year of law school.

But Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said the plan sounds “highly complicated” and would be better left to the regents and private universities to figure out.

“It’s the last thing college students need,” Johnson said, “He’s promising everyone the world.”

Both Johnson and Hatch acknowledged sometimes classes do not line up, and students are forced to stay an extra semester or year to finish their degrees.

Hatch said students could take a traditional 15-credit class load at the UI and supplement it with additional classes online from other universities.  

“It’s like a market,” Hatch said. “You have to let the consumer shop.”

Hatch said he hopes the program will eliminate this problem by allowing students to take the classes they need through other universities.

Kenneth Terrell, a project director for the Education Writers Association, said Hatch’s plan could be feasible.

“It’s a concept model a lot of states are considering,” he said, noting that Florida and Texas are pursuing similar plans.

Concerns about the plan include what majors the initiative could be applied to as well as how it would affect students who change their majors, Terrell said.

Beth Ingram, the associate provost for undergraduate education, said the university recommends students spend two hours outside studying for every hour in the classroom, meaning a typical class load of 15 semester hours would require 30 additional hours of work.

Ingram said students could take an additional three semesters hours of class but doesn’t think students would aspire to.

“I can’t see many, if any, students handling more than that course load in a semester,” she said.

Johnson said the primary concern should be keeping graduates in Iowa.  He said state officials need to work with the private industry in economic developments to provide graduates with jobs that match their skillset and career goals.

Completing one’s degree faster and still having to leave Iowa to find a job is not good, Johnson said.
However, Hatch said the collaborative effort will take time and will be hard to implement.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” Hatch said, “The details will probably come in administrative rules.”


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