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BYU seeks to hasten progress of students

Moving students more expeditiously toward graduation is a major goal at Brigham Young University, according to the university president, Rex E. Lee.

"I consider it our number one priority at least for the coming year, and perhaps beyond," he told BYU's faculty, staff and administration during the annual University Conference on Aug. 25.The means to reach the goal could include reducing hours required in some academic majors and adjustments in tuition to encourage steady progress.

"If our efforts are successful, the rewards will include the improved quality of our total undergraduate program, significant financial and other benefits to our students as we move up the time they enter their chosen professions and settle into permanent, lifetime circumstances, and an increase in the number of students who can profit from a BYU education. . . .

"I can think of no other initiative which, if successful, can do quite as much good for as many people, all of whom are very important to us."

Explaining why the matter is such a major concern, Pres. Lee pointed out that while graduation numbers have increased during the past seven years, there has been a decline in new entering students under the 27,000 enrollment limit.

"How can this be?" he asked. "If more are leaving, shouldn't we be able to admit more? The answer is found in the increasing number of continuing students. . . . There are two basic reasons for this increase in our continuing student population.

"First," he said, "more students, especially women, are persisting to graduation, rather than discontinuing their education prior to obtaining a degree. . . .

"But the other factor influencing the number of continuing students is the one we have been discussing: those who are persisting to graduation are taking an average of 11.9 semesters, or almost six years to obtain what we euphemistically refer to as a four-year degree. . . .

"The prospect of further substantial reductions in our entering students, in the face of greatly increasing numbers of highly qualified applicants is, to put it bluntly, unacceptable."

Pres. Lee outlined ideas and proposals the school is considering in its attempt to quicken students' pace toward graduation. One is consortium agreements with feeder schools, such as junior colleges, so that an associate degree will satisfy lower-division general education requirements except the math/language and advanced writing composition requirements.

Another is mandatory advisement for students to help them stay on track toward graduation. There will also be an evaluation of general education requirements and an increase in the sections offered in "bottleneck courses."

Unless there are demonstrated needs to do otherwise, Pres. Lee said all academic programs should limit their major requirements to 60 hours or less.

"We are not trying to create a cheaper degree; only a more efficient one which will better serve the interests of our students and the university," he said. " . . . There is a general growing national awareness that length of time in school is not synonymous with high quality."

Finally, Pres. Lee said tuition may be adjusted to encourage progress toward a degree. "Over the coming year, we will give serious consideration to the general principle that the number of fall/winter semesters which each student is entitled to consume at our highly subsidized tuition levels may be limited. . . ."

Once the limit has been passed, tuition would increase "perhaps significantly."

On the other hand, Pres. Lee said it has been proposed that tuition for spring and summer terms be substantially reduced to encourage students to attend during those terms.

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