CONTACT: SCOTT HAUSER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
UI students taking advantage of the 'Four-Year Plan'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- At a time when college tuition and expenses nationally
seem to be on a never-ending spiral, the University of Iowa's new emphasis
on helping students graduate in four years is striking a chord with first-year
More than 50 percent of freshmen students signed up for the UI's "Four-Year
Graduation Plan" this summer, one of the highest rates in the program's
The plan, which comes in the form of a written contract, pledges interested
students and the UI to work together to make sure that students stay on track
to graduate in four years.
John Folkins, associate provost, says the plan tries to spell out clearly
an ongoing commitment of the UI.
"We really are committed to giving students the opportunities and the
flexibility to plan their educational careers in ways that most benefit individual
students," Folkins says. "For some, that means graduating in four
years and we are committed to helping them achieve that goal.
"The Four-Year Graduation Plan puts that commitment in writing for students,
their parents and for the university," he says.
Begun in the summer of 1995, the four-year plan was adopted in response to
a request by the state Board of Regents to more fully explain to students
and parents what students need to do to graduate on time.
Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa have also adopted
four-year plans. Universities in Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin and elsewhere
have beefed up their commitment to four-year graduation, as well.
The contract lists several requirements that students must meet, such as
entering the UI as freshmen, choosing a qualifying major, meeting regularly
with advisors, completing one-fourth of the necessary credits to graduate
in each of their four years, and others.
In exchange, if a student meets all the requirements and still fails to graduate
in four years, the UI will agree to waive certain required classes (if they
are not offered when needed), make substitutions for required classes if possible
or waive tuition for classes the student must take during a fifth year.
Students are asked if they want to sign up during summer orientation before
their first fall semester.
In the summer of 1997, a total of 1,852 students signed up, about 53.1 percent
of the 3,489 first-year students who are eligible. In 1995, a total of 1,895
freshmen students signed up, about 53 percent of the 3,578 eligible students;
in 1996, a total of 1,468 students out of 3,535 freshmen signed up, about
Figures for the first two completed years also show that students who have
stayed on the plan tend to have slightly higher grade points: a 2.95 GPA for
four-year plan students, compared to 2.71 for non-four-year plan students
in 1995; a 2.86 GPA for four-year plan students, compared to a 2.58 GPA for
non-four-year plan students in 1996.
Students on the plan are also saving money. In tuition alone, in-state students
save more than $2,500 and out-of-state students save more than $9,000 by finishing
in four, rather than five, years.
Folkins points out that students who are on track take advantage of a built-in
tuition discount. According to UI's tuition policy, undergraduates are charged
for each semester hour they take up to 12 semester hours. A student who takes
15 hours, instead of 12 hours, not only will graduate in four years, but gets
the equivalent of a year's tuition for free, Folkins says.
"We've long tried to make the point that students who take the initiative
to be a wise consumer of their education will graduate on time and have access
to a world-class education," he says.
Folkins says the plan requires a lot of responsibility on the part of students
to meet the demands of graduating in four years, and to plan accordingly.
But he says the UI has worked hard to make sure that needed classes will be
available, alleviating one of the main concerns of students and parents during
tight budget times of the late 1980s.
Folkins says UI officials recognize that the four-year plan is not for every
student. Some majors, such as engineering and secondary-school education majors,
require too many course hours and out-of-class experiences to make graduating
in four years practical for everyone.
Many students also complete semesters studying in other countries or undertake
semester-long internships, or take advantage of other enrichment opportunities
to enhance their education and improve their job prospects.
Those are excellent experiences for students to have, but usually bump students
off the four-year track, Folkins says.
"We don't want the four-year plan to interfere with students' opportunities
to get the best education they can," Folkins says. "For many students,
in many instances, there is nothing wrong with a five-year plan."