VCU’s Quest for Distinction should take notes

Illustration by Allen White

Katherine Johnson

Illustration by Allen White

Although they are separated by hundreds of miles, the University of Texas and VCU may have more in common than their distant campuses might suggest.

Like VCU, students at UT tend to favor a six-year plan for graduation. Based on numbers from VCU’s 2009 graduating class, only 50 percent of the students graduated after entering school in 2003. UT exceeds this, with 80 percent of their students graduating in six years.

Similar to VCU’s Quest for Distinction, UT has developed a new plan in which graduating in four years is the main goal. Unlike VCU’s plan, however, a “slacker” rule has been added for UT students.

This rule will increase the tuition of students who have enough credits to graduate, but don’t. While this may be a drastic measure to improve graduation rates, we all know that money talks.

Who wouldn’t graduate if they had enough credits? The main problem at VCU doesn’t seem to be students choosing not to graduate because they want to hang around, but not having the means to graduate. The “slacker” rule probably wouldn’t apply well at VCU, but the university could learn from other ideas laid out in UT’s plan.

One example is by identifying bottleneck classes. These are classes that many students across various departments need to take in order to graduate. Since bottleneck classes often double as required classes, they fill up fast and leave students out. This leaves the possibility of students not getting into those particular classes, since they’re so highly sought.

All VCU students are familiar with the frustration that comes along with registration and realizing that the class they needed is full.

Recently, Brittiny Wolfe, a VCU junior, circulated a petition requesting the university hire more teachers and offer more classes instead of putting money toward construction. To better accommodate the growing student population and increase graduation rates, VCU should realize that they need to offer more of these bottleneck courses.

Another one of UT’s ideas that may be useful for VCU students is an online tool that would help students and their advisers monitor their degree requirements. Ultimately, it’s the student’s responsibility to keep track of their progress, but most struggle to do this. Some don’t take the time to read and understand what they must do to graduate until it’s too late.

If we had an online graduation worksheet that was automatically filled out based on our online transcript, students may find it easier to identify which courses they need or the requirements they still need to fulfill. Graduation rates would increase if more students understood their program and the requirements needed to earn their degree.

Rao’s plan to improve VCU’s graduation rate is exactly what the school needs, but may be lacking some basics. If VCU takes some notes from UT, students wouldn’t fall through the cracks because of something as simple as course availability or not understanding their graduation requirements.

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