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UC Commission on the Future recommends having students finish degrees in 4 years or fewer to help save UC money

By Marcus Torrey

Oct. 13, 2010 1:57 a.m.

Should students receive their degrees in under four years?

This topic was one discussed by the University of California Commission on the Future when it met Monday to debate ways to save the UC system money and bring in more revenue.

The commission called for campuses to improve undergraduates’ ability to graduate in four years or fewer by “re-examining curriculum requirements and policies to ensure that they are not overly burdensome,” according to the commission’s draft report. By having students graduate in four years or fewer, the commission hopes to increase enrollment.

The plan was called unrealistic by Robert Samuels, organizer of Alternative Commission on the Future and president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers.

“The plan relies on having people take a lot of summer courses, which I think are often inferior, shorter and more expensive (than regular courses),” he said.

Samuels added that many students switch their major at some point, and forcing them through school in a shorter period of time would not give them the option to change their minds.

The Commission on the Future is made up of five different groups, all of which work toward the commission’s main objective of researching how to improve funding, access and affordability in the struggling UC system.

Another recommendation in the draft report is the exploration of online instruction, which the UC commission believes may reduce scheduling conflicts, increase summer session enrollment and reduce a student’s average time to earn a degree. The UC has already begun a pilot program for online courses.

However, Samuels said a study conducted by the alternative commission shows students have a harder time taking class seriously without face-to-face contact, and this leads to higher dropout rates in online courses.

While some of the UC commission’s recommendations are contested, there is one that both the commission and the alternative commission agree on.

“The most profitable aspect of the UC is undergraduate education,” Samuels said.

By increasing enrollment, while emphasizing bringing in more out-of-state residents who have higher student fees, Samuels said the UC would be able to begin addressing funding problems.

Likewise, the UC commission wants to increase nonresident enrollment to “enhance the educational experience, broaden geographical diversity of the student body, prepare students for a global society, and generate additional resources to sustain current instructional capacity and quality educational offerings for all undergraduates,” as laid out by the recommendation in the draft report.

Based on changes discussed during the meeting, the UC commission voted unanimously to adopt the draft report of recommendations, said Steve Montiel, UC Office of the President spokesman.
A final report is expected sometime between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, which will then be sent to the UC Board of Regents.

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