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Volume 42, Number 3


At Iowa, Those Who CAN Teach

Four Year Grad Plan

Half the World Away from Home

In This Office, Students Come First

Pass the Plastic

Tax Deductions

Summer School?

Creating the Level Playing Field

Expanding E-Mail Network

Parent Times Briefs



The first group of students who enrolled in the Four-Year Graduation Plan as first-year students is nearing graduation. The plan guaranteed that if students followed certain rules (not dropping classes, no late changes of major), the University would guarantee that classes they need to graduate in four years would be available. Later this spring, the University will have its first look at how well the new plan has succeeded, both for the participating students and for the University. We asked President Mary Sue Coleman to tell us early results and to discuss other topics.


Q: Let's begin with the Four-Year Graduation Plan. Do we have figures on how many students in the plan will graduate this year? What can you tell us?

A: We've been studying these students fairly intensively, now that we're in the fourth year. Everything that we see about the plan indicates it has helped students get into the classes they need. Also, students become more aware of the necessity for internships and for study abroad because there's more discussion when they're first year students. I believe that may be why those numbers are up.

We also know that there are positives in terms of student performance. We know the cumulative grade-point average for students on the plan is 3.05 and it's 2.98 for those not on the plan. Also, the number of hours per semester is 14.15 for those on the plan and 13.73 for those not on the plan. Although the difference in those numbers doesn't look very large, they're statistically very significant because of the large number of students involved. We think that those differences will increase.
We are doing many more sophisticated kinds of analyses of those cohorts of students, both on and off the plan. We're going to survey seniors to give us an indication about how the plan has helped their motivation and decision-making. I hope it's going to really move us along. The data are still incomplete so we don't know yet the full impact on the four- and five-year graduation rates.

Certainly, so far, all indications are that this plan has had a positive impact on students. But, again, I think we're going to have to keep refining the program. We need to make sure courses are available. Students on the plan are performing better and taking heavier course loads.


Q: Students who graduate in four years save a year's college costs and get to their careers or graduate study more quickly. How does it help the institution?

A: It certainly helps us plan for courses. When we know students' academic goals, then we can project what we're going to need to do in terms of offerings. It also helps us gauge the numbers of students who are going to want internships and study abroad. All those, it seems like to me, are positives.


Q: How can parents help their students as they try to decide on their future career plan and whether to remain in the Four-Year Graduation Plan?

A: Parents have a huge influence, whether or not they believe it, and some of the unspoken issues are as powerful as those that are spoken. I think for parents to remember that is important. I think what parents can do is reinforce the notion that it's good for students to start thinking about these issues early on. A lot of times students want to discuss their career ideas with parents and parents can be open to those discussions. They may not have all the answers, but I just think the notion of asking your student, 'What are you learning? What are your plans? What areas is the University opening up for you?' can lead to some very positive interactions between students and parents. And I think parents reinforcing the four-year plan can be a great help.


Q: A few months ago, we announced that the Iowa Advantage program had been introduced to get students thinking about careers early in the first year at Iowa. How has that worked?

A: This is a career development pilot program that enrolled 65 students this fall, half of them first-year students, representing a wide range of majors. Students discuss job readiness, how to make the transition from individuality to team player, community issues, and diversity. The students are using some really interesting software that helps them think about careers and what they need to do to prepare themselves for those careers.
Jane Schildroth, director of Career Development Services, is planning to do a survey of those 65 students at the end of the year to see how they have benefited. I think Jane feels really good about it, and we imagine the program will grow substantially. So far, so good! Certainly, we hope the students who started in their first year will continue through college and grow more sophisticated as they plan their careers.


Q: We're in our fourth year now of having three summer sessions-a three-week intensive session at the beginning of summer, a six-week session, and an overlapping eight-week session. Is that working?

A: The three-week summer session has been quite interesting. We've gone from 860 students with 42 sections of classes in the first year (1996), to 1,394 students in 1998 with 76 course sections. In 1999, we're planning to offer 89 sections because of an expected increase. So we feel pretty good about that.
At the end of the three-week session last year, we asked students what they thought about it. Eighty two percent of the students either strongly or moderately agreed with the statement, "The three-week summer session was a positive academic experience for me." I think that was rather remarkable.


Q: What did students like about it? Do they prefer the three- week session to the longer ones?

A: I think they liked the fact that they're able to take a course and keep on track, and that they're able to concentrate on one subject without distraction. It really gives them a good experience. The other question we asked was: "How would you rate your three-week summer session experience compared with the experience during the regular year?" Fifty percent said it was better, which was quite interesting; 36 percent said it was about the same. So again, we have approval and enthusiasm for that concept.

The six- and eight-week sessions have been positive, but they're not quite as popular as the three-week session. By constructing it this way, we're able to get a little bit more than two weeks' break in August now, instead of only a week and a half break. Both faculty and students seem to like that.

I think what these data tell us is that the summer programs are really quite remarkable. They help students stay on their four-year plan. For instance, if they lack just one course, then they can pick it up in the three-week session and still have a long summer if they want to do an internship or get a job. So I think in a whole variety of ways we are meeting the needs of students, and I think everybody can feel good about it.


Q: Do you have any other comments that we haven't asked about?

A: I just feel like the year has gone extremely well, a lot of positive things have been happening among the students, and I look forward to spring.


University of Iowa President
Mary Sue Coleman

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