USD has started a new campaign centered on affordability and encouraging students to graduate in eight semesters.
Changes from the Finish in Four campaign include moving from 128 to 120 required credit hours for graduation, getting rid of the globalization and intensive writing requirements, changing the way advising is done and creating a math task force, said Jim Moran, provost and vice president of academic affairs.
He said these updates are all tied to how the university helps students complete their programs.
“Now, we know students change majors and all sorts of a variety of things happen, but it’s our commitment to provide the advising, the support for students that they can, if they are on track, they can graduate in four years,” Moran said. “If we could change that graduating in four years instead of four and a half or five, we see that’s the largest thing we can do on affordability for students.”
Steve Ward, director of the Academic and Career Planning Center (ACPC) and lead of this campaign, said USD has the highest four-year graduation rate in the state of South Dakota. That rate is only 40 percent, he said.
“That’s not good enough, from our point of view,” Ward said. “We want more students to get done in four years. And we’re the best, other schools aren’t graduating students at the rate we are. So that’s the impetus for this campaign, to keep this idea in students’ minds that your goal is to get done in four years. We want to get this goal out to people on a daily basis, or hourly, as they walk from class to class.”
Moran said he’s not sure how long the actual campaign will last because there’s a new group of students every year.
“We got a new group of students coming in every year,” he said. “I think it’s one that we have to be constant on in terms of messaging. Will we still have banners up five years from now? I don’t know, but it’s one of those things that every new group of students has to have this kind of reminder.”
Ward said the campaign is being marketed to students through banners, posters and scrawls that run during athletic games.
“The idea of the banners came up in terms of being able to get the message to the students,” Moran said. “It is an emphasis for the students to change some of that behavior to recognize that we’re committed. Different departments are now saying that we’re going to offer the courses to make sure that you can finish in four years.”
Moran said he hopes if the campaign is emphasized enough, it will become the “life force” of the university.
“This is directly for the students,” he said. “If we can reduce credits at graduation, that’s the biggest thing I think we can do for affordability for students and that’s where this is really focused on.”