Second Task Force on Enrollment Strategy Recommends Improving Time to Graduation

Feb. 16, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin's Second Task Force on Enrollment Strategy has presented a report to William Powers Jr., president of the university, recommending a requirement that would limit to 10 semesters the time for students to complete a baccalaureate degree, while also recommending initiatives and services to help students graduate in a timely fashion.

The report said under present policy there is no limit on the number of semesters a student may take to complete a bachelor's degree, and many undergraduates remain at the university longer than expected.

"By remaining at the university for extended periods, these students reduce the university's capacity to serve other students who wish to attend UT, both freshmen and transfers," said the report, which was presented to Powers by Dr. Isabella Cunningham, the Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor in Communication and chair of the Second Task Force on Enrollment Strategy.

Read the complete Report of the Second Task Force on Enrollment Strategy (PDF).

The Second Task Force was appointed by Provost Steven Leslie to review recommendations on enrollment policy that had been presented by an earlier task force in 2003. The purpose of the Second Task Force was to determine if any of the earlier recommendations should be changed or if it would be appropriate to make new recommendations. The 20-member group was charged with recommending a strategy for managing the university's student enrollment into the indefinite future.

Powers and Leslie will assess the recommendations of the Second Task Force in light of those made by the First Task Force and in the context of the university's institutional goals. Powers and Leslie will decide what actions should be taken on recommendations made by the Second Task Force.

The report of the First Task Force said time to graduation at the university is longer than that of its comparison institutions. While the traditional length of time to a bachelor's degree is eight semesters, on average, undergraduates at The University of Texas at Austin take 8.5 semesters to complete their degrees.

The report said the 2003 task force also had recommended a 10-semester policy, which was approved by then-President Larry R. Faulkner, and referred to the Office of the Provost. The 10-semester limit policy should apply only to long-session semesters, and students retain the right to appeal when there are special circumstances. The rule would not apply to programs designed for completion in more than four years.

Cunningham said the Second Task Force focused on issues that will help in three primary areas: managing the growth of the student body, improving the quality of the undergraduate experience and increasing the pace at which students earn their degrees.

The long-term goal of the university, as outlined in the report of the First Task Force, is to achieve a total student population of about 48,000 to attain a student-to-faculty ratio of 16, in line with comparison institutions. The university's enrollment for fall 2009 was about 51,000. In 2008-09, the university's student-faculty ratio was 18.68. In order to achieve the targeted student-to-faculty ratio, the Second Task Force also recommended the university continue to increase the size of the faculty.

Other recommendations designed to improve time to graduation would include ensuring students receive appropriate advising services and requiring mandatory advising for all students. There also would be a requirement that interactive degree audits be completed and electronically acknowledged each semester by all undergraduate students. Deans would systematically notify students about the status of progress toward their degree each semester.

To foster careful choices and timely progress, the Second Task Force recommended new requirements regarding changes of major. These include requiring students to declare a major or majors by the completion of 60 hours or by the end of the fourth long semester in residence, whichever is later.

Students would be allowed one change of major prior to completion of 90 hours with the permission of the home college and department and the receiving college and department. The report also recommended permitting students after their first semester at the university to transfer to a different college only if their grade-point average is at least 2.0 for coursework in the receiving college and if they demonstrate they can graduate within the 10-semester limit. Students are now required to achieve a 2.0 grade-point average in the college they plan to leave, rather than the receiving college. Similar policies would be developed for transfer students.

In the area of course demand and repeat registration, the Second Task Force recommended development of a university-wide policy regulating repeat registration in the same course. It noted that repeating courses prolongs a student's time to graduation.

A significant recommendation in the area of curriculum reform is to implement signature courses by 2010-11 in a way that does not increase time to graduation for any group of students, including transfers. In a signature course, the university's most distinguished faculty members introduce college-level discussion, writing and analysis, along with some of the university's most valuable resources such as the Blanton Museum, the Harry Ransom Center and many other campus "gems." It is part of an effort to improve the undergraduate experience and make the freshman curriculum a more prominent piece of a University of Texas at Austin education.

Cunningham said the Second Task Force on Enrollment Strategy has largely adopted the guiding principles established by the previous task force. The only addition to those principles was recognition of the changes made in the undergraduate curriculum as a result of the work of the 2005 Task Force on Curricular Reform. The change recommends that undergraduate curricula should be flexible enough to allow students to explore academic areas outside their majors without prolonging time to graduation.

The task force also addressed the readmission system used by the university. Students who wish to return to the university at any time after graduating can do so without going through a readmission process. Given the increased number of high school graduates in Texas and the limited number of seats available in the state's first-class universities, such a provision places undue pressure on new admission, the task force said. The task force recommended establishing more rigorous readmission requirements for returning students who have been absent from the university for one semester or longer. It also recommended limiting degree holders who are not seeking an additional degree to two semesters, with subsequent extension granted on a semester-by-semester basis after review by their dean.

Another major concern is the availability of physical resources to adequately serve students and faculty demands and ensure the delivery of top-quality instruction. The Second Task Force report said a shortage of teaching facilities is an obstacle to implementing many of its recommendations and suggested the university expand its classroom and laboratory capacity and implement and enforce a campus-wide policy for reserving classrooms. The Second Task Force recommended the appointment of a work group that will examine and assess how the scheduling and use of classrooms and laboratories can be optimized.

For more information, contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of the President, 512 475 7847.

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56 Comments to "Second Task Force on Enrollment Strategy Recommends Improving Time to Graduation"

1.  Jeff said on Feb. 16, 2010

This is a terrible idea. Perhaps if UT was better able to accommodate demand for classes (i.e., prevent course sections from filling up so rapidly as to impede one's progress toward a degree), then this suggestion wouldn't seem so inane. A much more reasonable long-term plan would be for the university to perhaps be more discerning in the students it allows to enroll--for instance, by instilling a very low (and very fair) threshold SAT/ACT score (of, say, 1600 or 23) for automatic admission--to reduce enrollment of college-UNprepared students at UT. Indeed, these under-performing students take longer to graduate (if ever), and force classroom standards to be lowered so that UT's graduation rate can be on par with supposed "peer" institutions. For a university typically preoccupied with bolstering its U.S. News ranking, implementing this policy would be a step in the wrong direction. Are you listening, President Powers?

2.  Deborah Rothschild said on Feb. 17, 2010

Another suggestion would be to limit the number of times a student can be on probation. As an academic adviser for more than 20 years, I have seen many students on probation as often as 10 and 12 times. They are taking away space from highly qualified students who would love to be here and are more dedicated to academics. I mentioned this once to a dean, but was not taken seriously. Hopefully, you will.

3.  Kirby A. Kuntz said on Feb. 17, 2010

I support the 10-semester limitation completely. An objective of any university needs to be to educate students and efficiently produce degreed graduates. This is a step in that direction.

4.  Monica Lowe said on Feb. 17, 2010

Please do not accept the Task Force recommendations of a 10-semester graduation limit and the major change limits. While some of their proposals are valid, I strongly disagree that these graduation and major change limitations are in the best interests of the students. They fail to account for those students who are trying to work simultaneously to pay for tuition without building up enormous amounts of student loan debt, and subsequently have to register for fewer hours per semester. They also fail to account for students like me, who are graduating later in part due to the fact that I've continually been unable to register for required courses because there are not enough class sections open. For example, I am a senior and was forced to take an online basic-level Spanish class for my degree requirements because literally every section offered at UT was closed.

Furthermore, on the topic of major change limitations, I believe that most undergrad students come to college for the very reason of exploring career tracks and discovering what they want to pursue academically. It would be unfair to limit them at the undergraduate level (as opposed to the graduate level, where the student is hopefully more decisive and specific in their chosen areas of study) because it is counter-productive to the goal of undergrads to find an academic field that they're passionate about studying.

A limitation on choices such as major changes and the time it takes to graduate for undergrads would not encourage any high school senior who is bright enough to be accepted into UT but undecided in their academic interests to even enroll here at all.

5.  Richard said on Feb. 17, 2010

I do NOT believe in the 10-semester limit because it is not taking into account the students who have to work full time. I work full time and cannot afford to work part time. I have bills to pay, and I pay my own tuition out of my own pocket. Please take this into consideration.

6.  Sara Chamberlin said on Feb. 17, 2010

The ideal ratio and student body number do not seem to account for part-time students. This policy also overlooks schools in which students may be admitted to the upper division degree program later in their college career, or may experience late degree changes due to not being admitted to such an upper division degree program.

7.  Jeannee said on Feb. 18, 2010

Let's see: age 18 plus five years. You have less than 4,000 students over that age. How much of a problem can they be?

8.  Mary Boyd, P.E. said on Feb. 18, 2010

I was a high school drop out and a single mother living in poverty. I got food stamps. Then I went to UT and got a B.S. in engineering. It took me nine years. I had to discontinue my education during a couple of difficult times and I never took more than 12 hours a semester.

But I did it. My life has been so much better than it was or would have been if I hadn't persevered. My contribution to society has been much greater than it would have been. I have paid many times more in income taxes since then than I ever received in financial aid or welfare. That would not have happened if I was limited to 10 semesters.

This is part of what a public university should be about - helping people lift themselves up and contribute to the greater good. Limiting semesters to graduate is a bad idea. Please don't do it.

9.  Walter Horn said on Feb. 18, 2010

This is a solution looking for a problem.

10.  Amruta said on Feb. 18, 2010

I also completely disagree with the 10 semester system. In part, due to the fact that the larger concern the university should indeed be targeting is working on finding more efficient ways to allow students to schedule classes so they are not scrambling by the end of their senior year to finish their requirements. This is one of the core reasons why students take longer than required to graduate.

The problem of students staying longer that eight-plus semesters is not really even a problem. The reason some students choose to stay longer may even be that they want to get a more wholesome education by taking more classes or pursuing multiple degrees. If you limit them, then obviously the caliber of students leaving the university and looking for jobs in the tumultuous economy will go down.

Please deeply think about this decision and look into more pressing problems like filled-up courses before implementing such a drastic change as the 10-semester rule.

11.  John M. Casstevens said on Feb. 18, 2010

I worked part time to pay my way almost through business school and then through mechanical engineering and after then engineering graduate school. The idea of limiting to 10 semesters prevents passionate students from success if they don't know what they want to do in college right away. Bad idea in the name of efficiency and appearances. Successful business owner, UT financial supporter.

12.  Caroline said on Feb. 18, 2010

Had UT instituted such strict limitations on changes of major prior to 2002, I definitely would've had second thoughts about attending. One of the school's major selling points to me was its breadth of opportunities; to limit students' choices would be a mistake.

UT runs a risk of losing top students by enforcing such policies. It's supposed to be an exceptional institution of higher learning--not a trade school.

Incidentally, I changed majors once and completed my undergraduate degree in eight semesters. PLEASE consider the implications for students who look to UT as a place to explore their opportunities and intellectual interests. They will not want to attend a school that pushes them through like cattle in a chute.

13.  Crystal said on Feb. 18, 2010

I vehemently oppose the 10-semester limit. Class size, unavailability of required classes, and selective program transfer requirements all make this an unrealistic policy for UT students. Degree programs are often based on a linear, progressive timeline, but often students are unable to complete them in this fashion due to unavailability of courses. Also, those students who are not admitted to the program of their choice must take pre-reqs for that program to demonstrate their ability to succeed in the desired program - what happens for those students who effectively "waste" one to two semesters because they are not admitted to the program of their choice? And what about those students who seek a dual degree, or are doing a pre-med/vet-etc. program while also pursing a degree?

Furthermore, as a UT graduate who took 10 long semesters to graduate, I find this policy negates the purpose of a university. Throughout my time at college I was exposed to ideas/concepts/etc. that I had never heard of before and spent my extra semesters taking classes in these new areas of interest, knowing that I likely would never have an opportunity to be a full-time student again. One of these "extra" interests actually led to a career and a field of study for a master's degree.

Also, I agree with those who must take limited number of hours to work while in school. I consistently worked the entire time I was in college, and balancing school, work, and extracurricular activities that are promoted by the university required taking less hours for those semesters I knew would be demanding (either due to work or the specific classes I was taking).

Perhaps this would best be solved by first focusing on the issue of class space - why does the university continue to build facilities that lack classroom space? And then admitting only those students who can actually perform at a college level, revising financial aid decisions to make college affordable for EVERYONE, and determining if the university's focus is to graduate as many students as possible or graduate knowledgeable, well-rounded students who will actively contribute to society.

14.  Joe French said on Feb. 18, 2010

I don't think that this proposal is a good idea in that it discriminates against those who have to take a reduced class load in order to work to support themselves and pay the higher costs of an education.

15.  Kathryn Hill said on Feb. 18, 2010

I, too, disagree with imposing a 10 semester limit on students earning a bachelor's. As others have said, it would put unfair pressure on students who must work while they are in college, which is a large chunk of the population at UT. Also, students should feel free to explore academics while they are in college. Institutes for higher education were not always factories for turning out degreed professionals like products on an assembly belt. Is the University of Texas looking to pronounce itself as a place where the scholar-student is no longer welcome? This proposal truly disgusts me.

16.  Omri said on Feb. 18, 2010

College success is not at all a given, and neither is graduating in four years. In fact, only 56 percent of students nationwide graduate within SIX years, with private universities faring worse and UT apparently doing much better already.

The biggest help to students IMO is to use a college planning tool like myedu.com or at the very least to check in with advisers often and do some research on your own. Knowing your degree requirements, the best courses available, your expected workload in each class, and how to switch majors or transfer schools without losing time, students will do better and finish sooner while saving money.

Just placing more "deterrents" and pressures on students will achieve nothing.

17.  Dan said on Feb. 18, 2010

I have always disliked how long students take to graduate from college. I did it in four, not at UT. But I do think that it is a tad extreme. Perhaps end the taxpayer subsidy. Charge out-of-state tuition to all students who have been at a public Texas university for more than five years. That will essentially do the trick!

18.  kerry said on Feb. 18, 2010

The 10-semester limit is a good thing. And for those who have to work and might need longer, they can appeal based on their extenuating circumstance as stated in the article.

19.  Rhonda said on Feb. 18, 2010

The new policy has to be adjusted for part time students who are working to pay their tuition. It shows fiscal responsibility not to want all those debts when you graduate. I would also like to see some changes in the change of major category. I met several students at orientation who applied to the College of Education with no intention of getting an Education degree. They were told that it was easier to get in the College of Education than Engineering or some of the others and that once they were in, they could transfer. That prohibits other students who really want to be teachers from getting in as well as lengthening that student's stay at the university.

20.  Diana said on Feb. 18, 2010

If anything, this proposal will be counter-productive. If it passes, students simply choose another system (i.e. Texas A&M) to get their degree.

21.  Isabel said on Feb. 18, 2010

As long as there is an opportunity for students to appeal this rule, which there is from what I read, then I have no problem with it. In reviewing each student and their individual grade point average, financial circumstances, etc. It has to be flexible.

I'm sure the university would love to be more discerning in the selection of students who attend, however there is that "little state law" that does not allow them to do so freely.
As an alumnus in the real world I can say from years of experience that in reviewing resumes for new hires, unless there is something that is clear as to why it took someone so long to graduate, it does not reflect well on that individual. If you are selected for an interview you have the opportunity to explain, but with the competition out there, you may not make it to the interview.

It is important to remember that, as wonderful as university life is, its main function is to prepare you for a career in a timely manner.

22.  Anonymous said on Feb. 18, 2010

A 10-semester requirement is a ridiculous idea. Especially for engineering majors. Some engineering departments provide a flow chart in which each semester is laid out and planned for eight semesters. However, these flowcharts include semesters with a ridiculous amount of hours piled into each semester (i.e. 16 or 17 hour semesters). I do not take the load that is recommended because it is unrealistic. Therefore if I do not take the 16 or 17 hour loads in each semester, I will NOT graduate in eight semesters. In fact I will probably graduate in nine or 10 semesters. If you would like to fix the problem, then reduce the classes that engineers have to take. Revise the flowchart if eight semesters is a concern.

Also, I agree with a comment said earlier - what if the student has to work full time to pay for tuition and bills? The student may need more time because he/she cannot finish the degree in a 10-semester limit because he/she is trying to support him/herself.

23.  Bernard said on Feb. 18, 2010

The answer is to kill that silly 10% rule and use as Jeff says above a more objective measurement on SAT scores and GPAs. My son has a 2100 on SAT, all As in the one of the toughest high schools in the DFW area (and is 10.7% in a class of 728) and isn't accepted yet (and lettered in three varsity sports). But one kid from another district who couldn't hang in our ISD so they transferred to small town and got in the top 10% got accepted months ago already and another kid with half the resume. That's why the graduation rate is down...they're putting kids who aren't smart enough to adapt to UT and will end up either dragging out the number of semesters or never finish.

24.  Brody said on Feb. 18, 2010

The 10 semester limitation is incredibly reasonable. I graduated in three years from UT and I did it with ease. I worked 15 - 20 hours a week and volunteered most of my other spare time that was not devoted to studying. I never once had any trouble with registering for classes (and if I couldn't get into a class then I sucked it up and did something else). I have a friend who graduated in 4 1/2 years with a degree in mechanical engineering and was pre-med. We came to college for one reason: to get educated. If it takes you more than five years to earn your bachelor's then you are not working hard enough or you are not "college material." However, for those who are truly "working full-time," i.e. 40 hours a week in order to pay for tuition, maybe UT needs to put them in a separate graduation bracket or something to compensate for the time that it takes to finish their degree. I do not think the university has an issue with those students. I think they have a problem with the students who are not mature enough to be in college.

25.  LeAnne said on Feb. 18, 2010

I pray you will not take the recommendation to limit undergraduates to 10 semesters. Because I coach basketball and track during the spring semester I can take no more than two or three classes effectively during the spring. I try to take more hours in the fall, but sometimes things happen. Last fall I was taking a full course load and had to withdraw because of a medical condition. I realize some of these things might be taken into consideration in an appeal situation, but I think this recommendation would penalize some of the people already facing the most challenges trying to complete their education. Like the earlier comment, I pay my own tuition from my own pocket, and I will add that some of those funds go to help with the tuition of others. Thank you.

26.  Betty said on Feb. 18, 2010

Monica makes two excellent points. First, more and more students are having to work while attending the university, reducing the number of hours they can take in a given semester and prolonging their college career. These students are no less bright or academically committed than full-time students. Second, to be forced to declare a major after four semesters runs counter to engaging in intellectual exploration and acquiring the broad education available with a liberal arts degree, as well as defying all of the developmental research that shows that many people cannot make informed choices of major / career until they are at least 21. (Consult your Career Center and Counseling Center professionals on this point.) Adopting the above recommendations would represent movement backwards with respect to the progressive educational opportunities for which UT has been known for decades. Please don't let money be the deciding factor here!

27.  Betsy Schindler said on Feb. 18, 2010

This new policy is a good idea, good for the university and good for the students -- as long as the appeals process for exceptions is workable for the students with special needs. Too many students keep changing majors or dropping courses unnecessarily, causing delays in their graduation. This is costly to the students in terms of money and their own sense of accomplishment. The new policy can encourage students to complete the undergraduate degree, and move on to pursue graduate degrees. And the new policy can help the university provide better services to all its students, with a smaller faculty-student ratio, etc.

28.  Dean said on Feb. 18, 2010

I do not support the 10-semester limit at all! Part of the spirit of the university is to allow its students to learn through exploration. Sometimes it means some take longer, either to get to know themselves better or for challenging condition in reality. The financial aid already has a limit of 160 credit hours maximum and that should encourage many to finish their degree in a timely manner.

In addition, it is already in the rule book that a student is required to finish within six years of a certain catalog. Some upper-level technical courses do change in time, as well as the degree requirements. I'm not sure why it is such a big deal to make sure everyone leaves school after four years on the dot unless we are trying to turn into a big diploma factory, which UT should never become.

I'd rather see the university serve the students already admitted well rather than looking outward and try to serve those who they wanted to serve by dropping those they have responsible of. You cannot say you want to give everyone a chance and then do not give them the resources to succeed. I feel sorry for the adviser who posted earlier who sees kids who are not performing as she would like to see. I feel sorry for the kids as well since they have an adviser who probably doesn't care about them as much as she should either.

29.  Mordechai Rorvig said on Feb. 18, 2010

How many current students have been enrolled more than 10 semesters?

And what about people who work while they attend school?

30.  Jessica Sun said on Feb. 18, 2010

What if the degree plan for some students requires at least 10 semesters to complete, such as the bachelor of architecture? Would there be an exception for these kinds of degree plans and for students who are seeking double degrees?

31.  Bennie Meyers said on Feb. 19, 2010

My son could not get the course he needed to graduate in the fall because it was only offered in the spring. We held him out that semester, and he had to get special permission to take 18 hours in that last semester. REALLY, special permission to take 18 hours.That is why they cannot graduate on time!

32.  Charles Curtis said on Feb. 19, 2010

The 10-semester rule does not take account of those students who work to "pay their way," thus avoiding large debts or government handouts. In fact, students who do not borrow funds from the university should be given a discount on tuition and fees.

33.  Kristin w said on Feb. 19, 2010

I agree it would be ideal to have all students graduate in 10 semesters or less, but as a former student athlete who started with 12 credit hours and finished in eight semesters only because I got to register for my classes before regular students, I can understand it must be frustrating when all your essential classes fill up. Obviously the problems go hand in hand. If we accept a more elite class of students, those students will have an easier time registering and finishing quickly.

As far as students who have full or part-time jobs go, perhaps they should be given the semester by semester extension mentioned in this e-mail. After all isn't graduating better than not?

Speaking of which, what exactly would happen to those 11-semester students? Expulsion? Ability to transfer to another institution?

Or will this policy just increase the popularity of summer semester? Will the summer courses fill up too quickly now, too? I never took summer courses so I can't speak to the problems already faced, but it seems a question worth considering.

34.  Jessica said on Feb. 19, 2010

As stated in other comments, it seems like a semester cap would discourage young parents and working students trying to get a four-year degree from applying in the first place. UT makes a lot of decisions based on privilege, but this is the worst in a while. The job of educational institutions is to encourage all students, regardless of ability to complete coursework in what the school arbitrarily deems a sufficient amount of time, to graduate - not to push students through like cattle.

35.  sean said on Feb. 19, 2010

Let me get this straight--you want to put a time limit on someone's education? Wake up.

36.  Valerie said on Feb. 20, 2010

There are many insightful opinions here. Who will handle the appeals? (Sounds like a great deal of time and paper will be required not only from students but departments and deans.) What happens if that appeal is denied? Will some with great potential follow the path of least resistance and blow it off?

As an academic adviser from another UT institution all too often I have seen the fallout from the Top 10% law. Because those students with stars in their eyes were not really prepared for college (academically or emotionally) they return home with entirely wasted semesters (time + money = 0 credit hours + lots of money in debt). Maybe if admission requirements were reevaluated, the time-to-completion would not be such an issue.

Many students come in believing they want to be a brain surgeon and quickly find out they don’t have what it takes, others simply find another area piqued their interest after taking some general education course. And then there is the clueless cohort attending only because it is what parents or society expect of them. National statistics show students DO change majors as many as five times before finding the right fit.

So, it’s a darn good question: Determining if the university's focus is to graduate as many students as possible or graduate knowledgeable, well-rounded students who will actively contribute to society. Unfortunately, while Aristotle, Hobbes, Thucydides and Socrates roll over in their graves, the answer will come from a business or economics point of view.

This task force presented many good ideas on some very tough questions. I hope those receiving the report won’t stop here. I still believe UT stands for intellectual excellence. If you have a degree from UT you are among the best! Hook ‘em!

37.  student said on Feb. 20, 2010

I don't agree with the proposal. As a student who has already studied abroad (since I am of a different nationality) UT has to first revise the curriculum of the classes required for each college. The load is simply ridiculous. Some professors don't even have a book for their classes and make up their own curriculum (talking about the natural science field). You can tell by the hard and very time consuming tests (which are supposed to "challenge" us) that these professors never dealt with the heavy load of information we do today as students. So, why should I be the one suffering the consequences of a broken system? If academia worries more about what we learn and less about their grants, we might actually graduate faster and with more knowledge. I would like to see more full time professors who know the material and less "staff" that shows up out of nowhere with no teaching skills or broad perspective! As someone speaking English as a second language for the last 10 years I've been in the U.S., I don't want to have to struggle trying to understand a heavy foreign accent that a lot of my professors have! That's not fair for us, the students who pay so much money for a class. Should I mention the labs? Some of them take up to 10 hours to write a report on....I can't survive on a four-hour-a-night sleep on a regular basis. It's all about quantity, no quality! The 10-semester limit would do nothing but lower the education standards once again....and these are just a few reasons, in addition to life's hardships and financial problems that a lot of students at UT have to go through! It's not always the student's fault! I've been on both sides of the isle.

38.  Robert said on Feb. 20, 2010

This is a foolish recommendation that should NOT be forced upon the students. By instilling a more and more restrictive admissions policy to curtail enrollment of unqualified students (<1100 score on math and verbal)--who, critically, are the students taking so long to finish their degree in the first place--this "problem" would automatically solve itself. Instead, by implementing this recommendation, you would alienate well-prepared students who are working to put themselves through college and those who may change their major midway toward a degree.

39.  Paul said on Feb. 21, 2010

I believe the university has to make a choice. Either to see that the student graduates come out with a degree for a bright future no matter how long it takes or be impersonal and result in having a lot of college dropouts. I believe if a student enters the university they do so with hope and financial sacrifice with the aim of completing the degree, and the university's responsibility is to make sure they do.

40.  Charles said on Feb. 22, 2010

The University of Texas at Austin has indeed lost touch with the public it serves. As an engineering graduate of the university I spent some time as an undefined liberal arts student. I find this proposed 10-semester rule ludicrous. The University of Texas at Austin mission is education to better the people it serves, “…to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research, and public service” … thereby serving the community that sponsors it. The stated goal “Core Purpose: To transform lives for the benefit of society.” As I read it, the goal IS NOT to tender a world class student to faculty ratio. How disappointing that such a rule would even be considered in print.

41.  Jonathan said on Feb. 22, 2010

This is truly an awful idea. The last thing that we want is for students to stick with a major that they hate just so they can get finished in time. Maybe you should focus on the ineptitude of most of the advisers. I am taking an extra semester because my adviser gave me bad advice as a freshman. Also, make the colleges (especially engineering) eliminate some of their unnecessary prereqs (the reason that I'm graduating late).

42.  Crystal Henry said on Feb. 23, 2010

Hello all,

I, too, am shocked by this proposal. I am a third-year journalism student at UT, and I'd like to do a story on this. Please e-mail me if you'd like to share your thoughts with me about this. I need as many sources as possible to make this a good story. crystalhenry11@yahoo.com is my e-mail. Or Facebook me: Crystal Henry.

43.  John said on Feb. 23, 2010

I recommend considerations for students with multiple degrees/majors. Possibly an additional long semester for every whole interval of 15 hours required to complete their program beyond 120 hours.

If a student is denied continuance in a long semester under this proposal, maybe not restrict summer semesters to allow students to make progress toward their program before reapplying to continue during long semesters.

In regard to economic hardship, if a student on financial aid or showing proof of working more than halftime appeals to enroll beyond their 10th semester, maybe automatically use financial aid standards for academic progress for two additional long semesters before a more rigorous appeals process is applied.

44.  Mike D. said on Feb. 23, 2010

I also do not approve of the 10-semester limit. As a student with a handicap who also works part time, it is impossible for me to graduate in 10 semesters. Especially when in my degree program some classes are only given one semester a year. Miss that semester and you have to wait a whole year to take the class. I also would like to point out a common point of confusion: That UT is an educational institution is false. UT is a business and its product is an education. Just like any business UT seeks to maximize its revenue and minimize its costs, all on the back of the undergraduate. I wonder, if UT was a car company would you buy a car made buy it?

45.  Amber said on Feb. 23, 2010

Did anyone read the news article? It said that students with special circumstances would be able to appeal the rule. I'm sure working full time and paying your own tuition would count as a special circumstance. I know someone who took 10 YEARS to graduate from UT, and it certainly wasn't because he was working full time. He was taking tons of electives hanging around doing whatever he wanted and changing majors nine times. We don't need people like that sucking up the little classroom space that is available.

46.  John said on Feb. 23, 2010

These recommendations are baloney. Departments are letting go of lecturers because of budget cutbacks. Professors avoid teaching as much as possible so they can have time to publish papers and get grants Who's going to teach the classes necessary so a student can even have a shot at graduating in five years? Between tuition increases and the ridiculous cost of textbooks forcing more students having to carry reduced loads just so they can afford to stay in school, and faculty devoted to teaching being fired, how does the administration think that students can finish in five years? Why don't they fire the vice presidents, assistant deans and vice provosts so they can hold on to lecturers and actually do the amount of teaching needed at this university?

47.  Matt M. said on Feb. 23, 2010

This is a sound idea. Those students who have to work while they are in school and can only take classes part-time--as well as those with any kind of disability--would surely be exempt from the proposed 10-semester limit, as their circumstances would be considered extenuating. As a recent UT grad, I'd say only a minority of students work full time and attend UT concurrently, so the university should not have any trouble accommodating these people.

What UT is hoping to accomplish with this is to ultimately make students more serious about and accountable for their education. Having been a UT student just last year, I can say that I knew of many students who seemed to be unsure of their direction but were taking tons of elective courses while trying to figure out what they really wanted to do. Although I definitely support allowing students to explore their interests while in college, I believe there comes a time where an unsure student should make up his mind.

Those who are against this on the grounds that it punishes those students who have to work or have special circumstances are simply ill-informed about this proposal.

48.  J.D. said on Feb. 24, 2010

That's only five years to complete a degree that is taking the majority of students five years to complete! This leaves no room for students to make an error, no room for life problems and is detrimental to those who are not traditional students.

I've personally been a student with academic issues which stem from not being a traditional student. I will require 5.5 years to graduate, but I will graduate, and trust me, another "Special Circumstances Appeal Form" is not what I want to see when trying to better my life.

This university does have a problem with growth but this is not the way to solve it. The problem is stated clearly that UT has 3,000 more students in attendance than it should. If that is the problem then a solution should target the problem directly, not beat around the bush like this.

49.  Augustine said on Feb. 24, 2010

Awful idea. The authors of the proposal seem to confuse the difference between a DEGREE and an EDUCATION. Certainly the universitiy's mission is to provide students with an education, the degree is a certificate of competance in a particular field.

However, if they genuinely want to make students graduate in time, then make the enrollment process stricter such that you weed out the week and the incomptent. The students who have the necessary grades shouldn't be forced to graduate due to the need for letting more people in.

I did my best work at UT in my 9th and 10th semesters and I might stay back for another two. My grades are good. Why should I or people like me be forced to graduate? It's not that we aren't paying our tuition.

50.  katie said on Feb. 25, 2010

Speaking from the department side, from one of those professors who "doesn't teach" -- many department can't get students to take classes before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. or on Fridays in the p.m. -- scheduling is almost impossible for us. And the proposal is NOT just "10 semesters," but 10 semesters plus the intervening summers. This ought to be possible for virtually anyone -- especially if the appeals process is solid. A good alternative might just be to hike tuition massively after 10 semesters? You can stay, but it's your choice?

51.  Amy said on Feb. 27, 2010

Limiting the numbers of semesters is not the solution. If UT is seeking to reduce the number of undergraduate students, why not eliminate the automatic admission of the top 10% or 8.9% of all high school classes? Let's face it - there are many variations in high schools and high school students. A student who ranks in the top 5% of his class at an "academically unacceptable" high school would probably not even be close to the top 10% of an "exemplary" high school. This policy results in the admission of students who are not UT material. If the university based its admissions decisions more on SAT scores, these marginal students would not be admitted. Granted that changing this policy would not be popular with those who are more interested in diversity and affirmative action than in UT obtaining the best of Texas' high school graduates, but it would reduce the number of marginal students who would either transfer to an easier college, drop out entirely, or take 16 semesters to complete a bachelor's degree.

52.  Stephen said on Feb. 28, 2010

I think the recommendations of this task force show how much they have lost touch with students at this university. Scheduling classes is difficult when not enough classes are offered. If you have the expectation for students to finish in 10 semesters, consider reducing the amount of classes students are taking, such as English/TWO SEMESTERS of GOVERNMENT/history. You can't expect to place these restrictions without giving students a little bit more leeway.

53.  Tia P said on March 1, 2010

Hm...I'm divided.

I worked two jobs and graduated in four years with two degrees in two different colleges. I do wish I had stayed longer, and didn't have to take 18 hours my final semester, but incentives like the on-time graduation rebate, made the decision a lot harder.

Pros: Yes, space is limited, and students milling around for years and years trying to "figure life out" is someone else's education on the line. Also, let's remember, that summer school does NOT count as a semester! Therefore, if there was a problem with scheduling classes or grades, etc., some classes could be made up in the summer (it was always easier and cheaper to take classes at the local or home community college and just transfer them in; plus online classes). Also, keeping in mind that there ARE exceptions for special cases and students remain the right to appeal.

Cons: I do not like the degree change limitations. I was one of the few who came to college knowing exactly what I wanted to do and the two degrees I would need to do it; however, that is not the case for probably 85 percent or more of incoming students. I have many friends who switched majors at least once and a handful who did it two to three times before settling on a choice that was perfect for them. I believe that such limited restrictions damper the spirit of higher education.

All that being said, something does need to be done about those few, but costly, students who are trying to avoid the real world by becoming a professional student.

54.  Jeff said on March 2, 2010

Let me tell a story...

I took 11 semesters to graduate because during my fourth year I decided to go to graduate school for a program somewhat unrelated to my undergraduate degree, which required taking 25-plus extra hours while doing research to meet the requirements to apply to said graduate program(s). I was an exemplary student on a full ride at a nearby Big 12 university as an undergraduate and now have a fellowship pursing an engineering Ph.D. here at UT. But there were no "extenuating circumstances" surrounding my extended undergraduate career--just simply a change of mind, and I could have just as well graduated "on time." Would UT have allowed me to stay under this new rule? If so, then where would the line be drawn? If not, well, then that's a travesty that may (deservedly) lower the enrollment of highly qualified students.

Here's a thought: how about UT get control of the people it's admitting in the first place. Well-prepared students typically finish their degrees faster and with higher rates of success; among high-scoring students my experience is certainly an exception, and UT's capacity problem could be addressed while improving undergraduate student quality. Moreover, I have first-hand experience with dozens of underachievers here at UT that have no business being in college at all, let alone at a "flagship public." This is of concern to me because as the quality of the undergraduate body declines, so does the reputation of the school that I'm getting a Ph.D. from, which I chose over more highly regarded institutions like Michigan and Georgia Tech. The top 10% law in any form is an utter failure and silly proposals like this are the wrong way to go about trying to fix UT's broken admissions system and capacity problem.

55.  Joanna Lowry said on March 3, 2010

As a graduate of UT and a subsequent high school teacher, I find these restrictions reasonable. I would suggest that if UT is still teaching remedial courses in math and English that they cease to do so. Should a student require remedial work, they should take it at another institution and then proceed to UT.

As a high school teacher at an academically strong school, it was amazing to me that students were being told that a "full class load was nine semester hours." Where in the world did that come from?! Lack of listening, note taking and study skills was very evident in the last few years of my teaching career.

I am certainly in favor of providing exemptions for those students working more than 20 hours per week...for them maybe nine to 12 semester hours might be negotiated. However, I found during my stint as a dorm counselor that I simply became more organized, but then I was a senior and should have been.

56.  James Harrison said on March 22, 2010

Such a broad rule does not account for many special considerations:
1. It would eliminate many self supporting students that worked and could not complete the degree in 10 semesters and perhaps change student demographics (including diversity ratios);
2. It would not account for certain degrees that have more stringent requirements and take longer (e.g., most types of engineering (esp. electrical and architectural); and
3. It would discourage students pursuing dual degrees and, more generally, a broad education. If a student does choose to pursue dual degrees, how are semesters counted if courses in the semesters count for both degrees (e.g., 3 engineering courses and two psychology courses?).

One thing that is clear is that today's students may well work into their 80's and have an expected 8-9 career changes. Most of the upper tier schools are now emphasizing broad and flexible curriculums. This rule goes against that trend because it encourages a narrow focus to make the timing requirement.