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Release: Immediate

UI initiates change in programs for freshman, sophomore students

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As part of new plans to improve the educational experience of freshman students, the University of Iowa is phasing out its Unified Program. The resources currently devoted to the Unified Program will be redirected into a new initiative that is expected to include small-enrollment, faculty-taught seminars open to all freshmen.

The Unified Program, created in 1980 to give freshmen and sophomores a cluster of common courses taught by tenured faculty in small-group settings, has served only 88 freshmen a year. The program will be phased out after the 1998-99 academic year, allowing the entering class of 1997-98 to complete the program.

The decision follows a faculty review of the Unified Program that recommended the development of additional ways to enhance undergraduate education, both by expanding existing programs and by creating new initiatives, said Judith Aikin, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts.

"The Unified Program has been a wonderful opportunity for undergraduates, but now we would like to offer those same benefits to a much larger number of students," Aikin said. "National data indicate that the freshman year is crucial to students. Success in that year is highly correlated with a student's likelihood of persisting to graduation."

The UI has augmented its Honors Program and initiated a Courses-in-Common registration option in recent years to begin to address this challenge.

The Honors Program has been expanded to serve more students, including many of the same students attracted by the Unified Program. In particular, the Honors Program has added courses at both the freshman and sophomore levels, including freshman seminars.

The Courses-In-Common option allows groups of students to take the same set of courses or sections together, providing a cluster of common experiences much like that of the Unified Program. Courses-In-Common currently serves about 700 students.

However, many first-year college students are not yet the beneficiaries of these programs designed to enhance their initial experience with higher education. Aikin has appointed a task force to design the new option and to establish a pilot program to begin no later than fall 1998.