Graduation Guarantee gains support

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

ASUU’s Graduation Guarantee advising plan is moving forward after receiving recent stamps of approval from the Academic Senate, Board of Trustees and a number of colleges on campus.

The program, which pushes students toward graduation in a timely manner through regular academic advising, will start Fall Semester 2008, depending on the implementation of a new university degree audit reporting system.

The Graduation Guarantee will be introduced on a voluntary college-to-college basis, said Katie Miller, director of the Associated Students of the University of Utah Academic Affairs Board. The colleges of business, fine arts, social and behavioral science, humanities, science and engineering have adopted the plan, and ASUU leaders said they will meet with all colleges before the end of the year to encourage them to participate. The colleges of medicine, pharmacy and law will not be a part of the Graduation Guarantee because it focuses on undergraduate advising.

ASUU will also present the plan to the Utah State Board of Regents in April for informational purposes.

“Improving academic advising is a common theme among institutions and we want to let other institutions know how we’re doing it,” Miller said.

As part of the Graduation Guarantee, students agree to meet with an adviser each semester to map out a course schedule to graduate in no more than five-and-a-half years, depending on their personal situations. Students must sign a contract agreeing to follow the plan, although it can be revised or updated. By following the plan, students are guaranteed class availability in the courses they need, or else the colleges are required to revise the contract, provide an alternate course, waive the requirement or waive the tuition or fees that they would have spent on the course.

The university will use the new DARS program to store the contract and track student progress.

Students will also be encouraged to meet regularly with a career counselor to determine courses, internships or programs that will supplement their degrees.

The Graduation Guarantee is a completely voluntary program and there is no punishment for dropping out except that students won’t reap the benefits, said ASUU Spencer Pearson.

Pearson said ASUU will market the plan mainly to incoming freshmen and transfer students during orientation. He hopes advisers will also explain the plan to freshmen when they come in for mandatory advising sessions in the fall. Pearson said he explained the Graduation Guarantee to the Transfer Student Advisory Committee and it thought the plan would help the U recruit transfer students.

Under the plan, transfer students can create a course schedule not to exceed three-and-a-half years.

“We are going to work hard before we leave (office) to make sure that the marketing is available for whoever replaces us,” Pearson said.

Paul Mogren, president-elect of the Academic Senate, said the Senate voted to endorse the program almost unanimously.

Mogren called the plan a “marvelous idea” because it obligates students and the university to pay more attention to scheduling. He also said it would increase the connection between students and faculty on campus.

“It puts students in involvement with the university, so students, departments and faculty are working as a team,” Mogren said. “The more connected students are with the whole operation, the better their experience is.”

Miller said the plan will help students set academic goals and plan ahead.

“Planning is the most important thing students can do at the U,” she said. “This is the tool to help them.”

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