Orientation programs for incoming University of Texas at Austin students are being redefined to provide more guidance on selecting majors, meeting academic requirements and graduating in four years.
The changes stem from recommendations made in February by the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates and are the first step in the university's efforts to increase its four-year graduation rate to 70 percent by 2016. Currently, about half of all students graduate in four years higher than at any other public university in Texas but lower than other national research universities.
"By making orientation more focused on academic progress, we will allow students to access the tools they need to develop, and successfully implement, a four-year graduation plan," says President Bill Powers.
Powers has named Associate Dean Marc Musick of the College of Liberal Arts as a special assistant to the president to oversee the office of New Student Services and implement the changes, which will be introduced this summer. Orientation will be mandatory for all incoming members of the Class of 2016 and will begin in June.
"The increased emphasis on academics will help students in all colleges and allow us to align and elevate our orientation programs across campus," says Soncia Reagins-Lilly, dean of students at The University of Texas at Austin.
When students graduate in four years, they incur less debt, enter their careers or graduate studies sooner, and demonstrate an ability to successfully complete a worldclass education all while saving their parents money on tuition.
Recognizing these benefits, the task force on graduation rates made more than 60 recommendations, including enhancing the first-year experience and improving advising and student tracking. The university is committed to implementing many of these recommendations, beginning with the increased emphasis on academics in orientation.