Senior Countdown program gives students rewards for four-year graduation pledge

Samantha Ketterer

A new initiative from the provost’s office, the Senior Countdown program, will reward members of the class of 2016 for committing to graduate at the end of the upcoming school year.

Students who go to their academic adviser and confirm they will graduate in four years can sign up for the program. In return, students can get help registering for courses they need to graduate, receive career counseling, earn access to networking events and get free gifts.  

“This is simply a reminder to the students that there is a path, that they have this … contract with us that says we’re making sure they get what they need,” said David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management.  

The program, which debuted last week, is one of a number of efforts to boost four-year graduation rates at the University. Four-year graduation rates have remained above 50 percent over the past decade, and President William Powers Jr. set a goal for the class of 2017 to leave with a 70 percent four-year graduation rate.  

Laude said he believes students don’t always graduate in four years because of a culture in which four-year graduation isn’t seen as necessary. Another contributing factor, Laude said, is the occasional student’s inability to enroll in courses necessary to graduate.   

“Over and over, I talk to people who give up on trying to find that coursework, because it gets too difficult,” Laude said. “This is something that we really have to work on to fix. I think that the degree plans should be much simpler, and a student’s choice of available courses to be able to graduate should come a lot easier.”

Kathy Uitvlugt, Senior Countdown program manager, said the University largely pushes for four-year graduation rates to save students money in tuition.

“On average, our students incur about $19,000 in debt if they graduate in four years,” Uitvlugt said. “It really makes a difference.”

Biology junior Jacqueline Lim said she will most likely not register for Senior Countdown because she is already guaranteed access to courses she needs through her four-year freshman interest group.

“I was going to [sign up], but getting an appointment with the adviser to talk to her about it is really difficult at this time, since registration is going on, and walk-ins have a really long wait time,” Lim said. “The only incentive for me to sign up for it would be the free gifts, and, still, I’m still not sure it’s worth the trouble of waiting to see an adviser in the biology department.”

Kim Saindon, international relations and global studies junior, said she can’t see any downsides to signing up for the program.

“I don’t know if that kind of a program is going to make a difference for [everyone], but I think it’s a nice incentive for people who are already on that path,” Saindon said.  

Laude said the provost’s office has spent a lot of effort over the past few years trying to increase four-year graduation rates.

“Now, it’s time to shift our attention to the back-end and deal with the issues that students face when they’re getting ready to graduate,” Laude said. “It’s prompted consideration we’ve given to what exactly a graduating senior was going to want to see made available to them in terms of resources as they’re getting ready to graduate.”