UB's 'Finish in 4' to become a SUNY standard

SUNY Chancellor announces initiatives to boost graduation rates


When A. Scott Weber attended college, most students finished their degree in four years.

But the senior vice provost for Academic Affairs has noticed something since then: an “erosion” of four-year degrees actually completed in four years.

That’s part of the reason Weber helped draft UB’s Finish in 4 program, a UB initiative that aids students enrolled in the program in finishing their degree in four years.

Now, the program will be used on campuses across the state.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced Finish in 4 would become a SUNY-wide program in her annual State of the University address in Albany on Jan. 23.

“It’s always gratifying to see something you care about and you feel strongly about be a model for a broader audience,” Weber said.

UB’s Finish in 4 was created in 2012 with hopes of providing students a fixed four-year track to graduation. The program has enrolled 49 percent of freshmen since it was implemented and helps students get access to classes required for graduation, according to UB officials.

Other SUNY schools like Fredonia and Oswego have similar programs to Finish in 4, but SUNY’s four-year graduation initiative is based specifically on UB’s Finish in 4 model.

“I think it’s a great program,” said Danielle Raymond, a sophomore business major currently enrolled in the Finish in 4 program. “All students may slack and get behind, but [Finish in 4] guides students in the right path.”

Raymond would like the program to help her fit studying abroad into her time at UB, which she said has been difficult thus far.

Weber said students were struggling to get into classes they needed for graduation because UB did not offer enough capacity to meet the demand.

“We recognized some of the challenges we were facing as a university in delivering appropriate course content,” Weber said. “Students [now] can take the courses they need, when they need them to graduate.”

To aid students in Finish in 4, UB added more than 300 course sections, 10,000 new course seats, 150 instructors and 40 teaching assistants, according to UB officials.

The first class of Finish in 4 students has yet to graduate – 2016 will be the first year – but the program is already touting some success. First-to-second-year retention is 88 percent, compared to the national public university four-year average of 74 percent.

UB’s four-year graduation rate has risen from 43 to 52 percent from 2010-14. The national public university four-year average is 26 percent. Along with higher retention rates, UB has also seen an increase in GPA of students participating in the program, all according to UB officials.

Weber said he recognizes there are legitimate academic reasons students need more than four years to complete their degree. He took five years complete his degree because of a co-op program.

“We’re not trying to approach this one side fits this all but we’re also making sure we filled our commitments,” Weber said.

Finish in 4 is not the only new SUNY initiative that Zimpher announced Friday. Zimpher set a goal for SUNY to graduate 60,000 more students each year by 2020. SUNY is already the nation’s largest public university system and graduated 93,000 students in 2012-13. SUNY has expanded, through a new investment fund, on student support initiatives to reach the goal.

Students entering SUNY in 2015-16 will be required to do an internship as a prerequisite for graduation.

Zimpher also advocated for recruiting faculty to be “master innovators,” who will attract research money and provide research opportunities for students. Zimpher announced an initiative to create a statewide high school transcript to make it easier for SUNY schools to analyze and advise prospective students.

Weber said UB is willing to assist other SUNY schools in implementing Finish in 4.

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