Several measures adopted by BYU to help students graduate sooner

Following through on plans to put students on a quicker track toward graduation, BYU has adopted measures to smooth out the path.

Increased enrollment demands have required the university to look at procedures and requirements that may be preventing students from graduating in a reasonable amount of time, according to John S. Tanner, associate academic vice president.As a result, a list of campus-wide initiatives developed over the past three years by a series of campus committees has been approved by the BYU administration and the board of trustees.

"These measures will not only allow more students to come to BYU, but will allow us to graduate more of the students who do come," Brother Tanner said.

The measures include mandatory advisement to monitor academic progress, 60-hour limits in majors, consortium agreements with two-year colleges to accept transfer credits, and restructuring general education. Other measures are a review of restricted enrollment majors, increased offerings of "bottleneck" courses, a review of courses with high failure rates, changes in the university catalog including a student MAP (master academic plan), priority registration and course demand, and mentoring and advisement of freshmen.

Two phases of the mandatory advisement program have been initiated. The first places enrollment holds on seniors who have no declared major or who have completed more than 150 credit hours. The second identifies students who have 96 hours and are on academic probation or are still in a pre-major program, as well as students with 12 or more full-time semester registrations.

In order to register, these students have to receive advisement and file a graduation plan.

As for requirements in the students' major field, every department with an out-sized major (more than 60 hours) was asked to cut back or justify an exception. "Where it is impossible to cut credit hours because of licensing or accreditation requirements, some majors will be granted exceptions," Brother Tanner said.

For transfer students, BYU has agreed with Ricks College in Idaho, and Dixie College, Snow College, and Utah Valley State College in Utah to accept associate degrees from the institutions as automatically satisfying BYU's lower division general education requirements.

BYU's own general education requirements and how effectively the courses are being taught are under review.

In the review of restricted enrollment majors, some 30 programs that delay a student's graduation by imposing barriers to entry are being asked to justify their requirements. "In some cases, there may be legitimate limitations to a program, such as available laboratory space," the associate academic vice president said. "But we believe that, in principle, university majors should be an open market, with no trade barriers imposed."

A number of concerns exist about so-called "bottleneck" required courses, where student demand is often greater than seating capacity, such as advanced English composition, civilization courses and some introductory science courses. "We're looking at ways to offer more sections of these courses as well as how to get students to take these courses earlier in their college careers," he said.

Several courses with a failure rate of 20 percent or higher, many of which are prerequisites for other advanced courses or are required for admission to restricted programs, are being scrutinized. "We're trying to track these courses at BYU as well as compare them with similar courses at other institutions," Brother Tanner explained. "We're looking at making some changes in how these courses are taught."

A new, "user-friendly" university catalog will include a master academic plan providing the student with a four-year track of required courses, including course availability.

The priority registration system is helping upperclassmen more readily obtain the courses needed to graduate. Computer registration on campus also now allows students to access a "raincheck" function to indicate their interest in a course that is already filled.

To help with mentoring and advisement of freshmen, a committee was organized last year to study the first-year experience and determine what the university could do to make it better.

Several recommendations are being considered to prevent some of the problems now found among senior students that might cause graduation delays, such as lack of faculty contact, academic mapping concerns, and the need for a sense of involvement in the university community.

In addition to these initiatives, the university administration has also announced reduced tuition for the 1995 spring and summer terms. It is also considering other financial incentives to encourage students to move toward graduation in a timely manner.

"We have made significant progress this past year and have gained considerable momentum in addressing some very difficult issues," Brother Tanner said. "We're trying to get our students to graduate in four years with the very best degree they can possibly get."

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