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UI pushes fast-track degrees

BY IAN MURPHY | MARCH 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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A pair of accelerated degree programs will soon become an option for high performing students.

The College of Public Health is seeking interested students for its program, and it offers an undergraduate course to gauge student interest in the field. The College of Law hopes to admit its first group of students for the 2015 fall semester.

Both programs will allow high-performing students to earn credit towards a graduate or professional degree, while earning undergraduate credit during their senior year.

The law program will be a 3+3 program, which will allow students to finish both their undergraduate and professional degrees in six years. Students in the Master of Public Health degree, which is a 3+2 program, will earn their degrees in five years.

Dean of the Graduate College John Keller said the transition to the graduate program occurs during and after the third year of undergraduate course work. 

Keller said students will take between nine and 12 semester hours of graduate course work during their senior year, which will count as both electives and graduate-level course work.

“These are not programs for everyone; these are for high-performing, highly motivated students,” Keller said.

The law program, a professional studies degree, will be unique because it will allow students at other institutions in the state into the program, law Dean Gail Agrawal told the state Board of Regents Education and Student Affairs Committee.

The law school is partnered with a number of universities in Iowa including Iowa State University, the University of Dubuque, and Buena Vista University in Storm Lake.

Interested students will have to take the LSAT.

The Master of Public Health program will admit students from several different undergraduate degrees, because there is no undergraduate public health major, Mary Aquilino, associate dean of the public-health school, told the committee in her report.

Keller said this program could help students with broad majors, such as biology, get into a professional field. The programs will also give students access to graduate courses earlier but will let students have a traditional college experience as well.

“If they wanted to study abroad, they would have to do that before their third year of study,” Kelly said. “It wouldn’t prohibit them from doing that they would just have to plan for it.”

Programs like these are not unusual, said Noel Radomski, director and associate researcher for the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education.

“That is a trend in higher education, to create a little more flexibility between undergraduate and graduate programs,” he said.

Programs such as these have their own benefits and drawbacks, Radomski said.

Courses that involve both graduate and undergraduate students could be too challenging for undergraduates or not challenging enough for the graduate students, he said.

However, he also said they allow interested students to see if graduate or professional studies are a good fit for them.

In some cases, Keller said some fields require an advanced degree and students can save themselves both time and money in the long run by earning their degrees in programs like these.

The regents approved the Master of Public Health program in 2013 and the College of Law plan this academic year.

Regent Katie Mulholland has been a supporter of the programs so far.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students who qualify and will be a good incentive for students to want to qualify,” she said.


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