UI to offer three-year degrees


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Students this fall may find themselves on a fast track to bachelor’s degrees after a new initiative débuts.

The University of Iowa will roll out three-year bachelor’s degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Tippie College of Business in the fall.

Planned liberal-arts programs, so far, include communication studies, international studies, and theater.

“Completing a degree in as little time as necessary helps reduce the total cost of education,” Provost Barry Butler said. “It is also attractive to those who want to pursue post-baccalaureate degrees.”

UI President Sally Mason proposed three-year graduation plans to the state Board of Regents in a September 2014 meeting.

She said “coupled with our Summer Hawk tuition grants,” the UI could guarantee three-year graduation to students who move through three-year plans in specific majors according to their requirements.

Students who transfer college credit from high school to the UI may be better prepared for the three-year program, Butler said.

Mason said the plans would reduce the cost of tuition and housing for students and allow them to join the workforce early.

“Some students, of course, have already completed degrees in three years,” said Helena Dettmer, associate dean for undergraduate programs and curriculum. “You don’t necessarily need to be on the three-year plan to do this, but it’s an option.”

Despite the offering, officials said they aren’t sure if it will be popular with students.

“I don’t expect a lot of students to take advantage of this, to be quite honest with you” Dettmer said. “A lot of kids are working and going to school at the same time and can’t possibly do this.”

Dettmer said the English, History, and Political Science Departments are also considering implementing three-year degree plans.

“Our feeling is that history would work well and is quite doable,” history Chairwoman Elizabeth Heineman said. “It just has to do with bureaucracy; [liberal arts] can’t do everything at once.”

Heineman said the History Department would be a good fit for a three-year academic plan because the major lacks strict sequencing and requires few prerequisite courses.

Because students could take courses in virtually any order, their coursework could accommodate the flexibility required in an expedited schedule, she said.

Heineman also said students may finish a degree in three years without declaring the plan, but those who do are guaranteed additional advising and placement into required classes.

English Chairman Jonathan Wilcox said, though it has not been finalized with the liberal-arts school at this time, he expects the department to implement the program perhaps as early as this fall.

In the English Department, Wilcox said, students can take classes in virtually any sequence after completing their introductory courses.

“We are a very flexible program,” he said.

Wilcox also said because the English Department offers a variety of courses in the summer, it could accommodate a three-year graduation plan.

Dettmer said, however, that three-year degree programs are not the best fit for all students.

“For some students, it’s not a very attractive option,” she said.

Some students would rather spend the four years in numerous programs, shesaid. Students who would enroll in the plan may declare only one major.

“My experience, talking to students, is that they like having breadth and maybe doing two or three majors or two majors and a certificate because they think they’re better equipped to go out into the world of work,” Dettmer said.

According to the current draft of the liberal-arts school’s three-year graduation plan, students taking advantage of the program would have to declare the plan before the end of their first semester at the UI.

Also, students would be required to meet with advisers each semester and complete 40 semester hours of coursework by their first summer session of enrollment and 84 semester hours by their second summer session.

The liberal-arts school’s sample three-year academic plan for international studies majors includes 16 semester hours in a student’s first semester, 18 hours each subsequent semester, and 14 hours split between summer sessions.

“It gives students an other option,” Wilcox said. “Few students will want to embrace it, but a few will, and that’s good.”

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