Lane: 3 year graduation isn’t for everyone

BY JOE LANE | SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last week, The Daily Iowan reported on University of Iowa President Sally Mason’s ambitious plan to introduce a three-year bachelor-degree program for some areas of study.

The plan, introduced by Mason at last week’s state Board of Regents meeting, would “guarantee [that] undergraduate students in select majors can graduate in three years.”

The proposal is very ambitious, to be sure. But the increased use of summers for classes in such a program, thereby all but eliminating the ability for students to participate in crucial résumé-building internships, and that last year, the four-year graduation rate was only 51.1 percent, indicates that the program may not be in the best interest of UI students.

First of all, with a four-year graduation rate just barely over the majority of the graduating class, it would appear that trying to decrease certain programs’ lengths to three years would be skipping a very important step in the process: getting the four-year graduation rate higher. As it is now, it seems that the focus should be on shifting from six-year graduations to four-year, rather than from four to three.

That being said, the Summer Hawk program has proved to be very successful and beneficial to many students both in this previous summer and in summers to come. The Summer Hawk program will undoubtedly help increase the four-year graduation rate, which, for now, should be the primary goal for graduating students. For now, the Summer Hawk grants are only allowed for one summer — which leaves open the opportunity for students to use other summers to get involved in valuable activities outside of the classroom.

Suppose a student does choose to take part in the three-year program, this student would likely need to complete more semester hours each semester while taking advantage of at least one summer to take nearly a full, if not a totally full, course load. Because they will graduate in three years, this means that they have one summer and three very heavily scheduled school years in which to gain work experience.

The likelihood that students would be able to excel in such a program while still taking advantage of invaluable jobs and internships during their college years is rather slim. So while students may graduate in three years, the question remains: Are they really better off for having done so?

While the inability to participate in internships is not something that would occur across the board, many students would experience this difficulty, which would likely decrease the placement rate of the three-year program participants when compared with their four-year counterparts.

The placement rate at UI is staggering, something that the university should take great pride in. According to the Admissions website for the UI, most majors have placement rates anywhere from 89 percent up to 100 percent for some. I don’t feel as though a three-year graduation plan is worth sacrificing this rate.

Finally, with Mason proposing a plan that potentially limits the ability of students to participate in work experience, and the UI Pomerantz Career Center arguing the value of work experience during your college career, the university presents a divided front.

While I have no doubt whether the intentions of the program are excellent and the program itself could do wonders for some students (such as those in pre-health programs), many others would not benefit from taking part.

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