CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s College of Liberal Arts will guarantee that students can earn a bachelor’s degree in four years beginning with the freshman class entering college in fall 2017.
The College of Liberal Arts is the first college at OSU to offer a four-year degree completion guarantee. Under the program, if a student meets their obligations but still cannot get through all of their needed courses in four years, the college will pick up the cost of OSU tuition for the remaining required classes.
The goal is to encourage more students to complete their undergraduate degrees and to do so in a timely fashion, which also helps reduce overall college costs for students.
“The guarantee we are offering CLA students exemplifies our dedication to their success,” said Larry Rodgers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We are offering students who sign up for the degree all the support they need to graduate in four years. We are happy to be the model for the rest of the university and our hope is that eventually a program like this will be available at other colleges at OSU.”
The College of Liberal Arts is the second largest college at OSU, with 17 undergraduate degree options, 3,917 undergraduates enrolled in fall 2016 and 972 undergraduate degrees awarded in 2016. However, of those students who entered college in 2011, only about 43 percent graduated in four years.
College leaders hope the new degree guarantee will boost that rate significantly. The changes also should lead to higher six-year graduation rates and help the university reach the goals of the Student Success Initiative, which includes a goal of 70 percent of students graduating within six years by the year 2020.
To participate in the four-year graduation guarantee program, new students must:
- Declare a major in the College of Liberal Arts by the end of the first quarter of freshman year
- Meet with a designated adviser at least twice a year and follow their progress recommendations
- Each year, earn at least 45 credits that fulfill degree and college requirements
- Stay on track with financial obligations such as tuition
Embedded in the degree guarantee program is a shift in philosophy toward first-year students.
In the past, academic advisors were encouraging first-year students to start with 12 to 14 credits in their first term of college. But now advisors will encourage students to take 15 credits per term starting with the first term, said Louie Bottaro, director of student services for the College of Liberal Arts.
“We have research that tells us that students who take 15 hours from day one are more likely to succeed than those who take fewer classes and plan to ramp up to 15 later,” Bottaro said.
Advisors will meet more often with students – currently they meet at least six times with students but that will jump to eight to 10 times or more during the student’s college career. The goal of those meetings will be to ensure that students have the information they need to stay on track, are getting the appropriate classes and receive regular updates about their progress toward their degree, Bottaro said.
Regular monitoring also will help better predict which courses students might need access to in order to graduate on time, so that enough seats are available or sections can be added to address student needs, Bottaro said.
Students who fail a class, accidentally take the wrong course or decide to change majors may need to take additional steps, such as taking a summer class. For some majors, such as music and graphic design, students must begin their major course work in their first term on campus in order to complete a degree on time.
If students do fall off course, they may not be eligible for the four-year degree guarantee, but advisors will continue to work with them to help them achieve their goals as expediently as possible, Bottaro said.
“Ultimately, our goal is to help students reach their academic goals and complete their degrees,” he said. “This new degree guarantee is one way to assist with that process, but we are committed to meeting students wherever they are in their academic plan.”