A key part of a successful college experience is having an exit strategy, and a timely one, at that.
Delaying graduation, even by one semester, can cost a student at the University of Houston an estimated $26,714 in lost wages and related expenses, such as tuition and fees, on-campus room and board, books and supplies. That number jumps to $90,800 in lost salary, alone, for students who delay entering the workforce by graduating in six years, rather than four.
In addition, students who do not graduate in four years and postpone entering the job market experience other economic consequences such as missing a year’s seniority, promotion opportunities and cost-of-living allowances.
With the high priority on student success established by President Renu Khator, the University of Houston was well positioned to respond to a policy decision from the Texas Legislature requiring universities to offer a four-year fixed tuition plan in fall 2014. Last May, the UH System Board of Regents showed its leadership on the issue by approving the planning of four-year fixed tuition rates at each of the System institutions. Regents approved the University of Houston’s plan at the board’s quarterly meeting Feb. 26.
“A new initiative called UH in 4 will set first-time-in-college students on track to graduate in four years,” said Paula Myrick Short, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UH. “By signing up for UH in 4, students will save money, save time and enter their careers or graduate study even faster.”
Only 16 percent of UH students currently graduate in four years. The six-year graduation rate is 46 percent – a number Khator has vowed to improve.
“We’re committed to increasing the graduation rates of our diverse student body, and we’re implementing sustainable strategies for an academic environment that helps students achieve their goals quickly and efficiently,” she said.
Teri Longacre, vice provost and dean for undergraduate student success, is tasked with implementing UH in 4. She says it is a partnership between the University and the student.
“It is a four-year guarantee in which students take at least 30 credit hours per year, meet with an academic adviser each semester, follow the course sequence in the academic map, monitor their degree progress, remain in good academic standing and notify the University of course unavailability,” Longacre said.
“The University of Houston will provide four-year academic maps, ensure course availability, provide academic advising resources, degree planning and monitoring tools, annual degree progress evaluations, and no tuition and fees beyond four years – if UH is responsible for any delay,” she said.
The Office of Academic Affairs will share information with high schools and at freshman orientation to make sure students have an awareness and understanding of this new opportunity, which will be offered to freshmen admitted in fall 2014, Short said.“We understand that not every student can, will or should commit to a four-year plan, but for those who can and do, their benefits include not only a predictable tuition bill, but also extensive support services,” Short said. “These include an academic program plan, advising and a guarantee the student will get the courses they need when they need them.”