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For students, college is a time of self-discovery and laying the groundwork for their future.

Some students take longer to finish the journey than others. But somewhere along the line, taking five or six years to graduate from college became the norm—here and across the nation.

UT is steering students back to the four-year graduation expectation by embarking on a new effort to help students complete their degrees on time.

The new initiative is called Take 15, Graduate in 4, and it establishes a new tuition model that links cost to the number of hours students need to take each semester in order to graduate on time.

Starting in the fall of 2013, all new full-time undergraduates and transfer students will be charged for 15 credit hours per semester. They now pay for only 12 credit hours, regardless of how many they take.

Students who are currently enrolled, or those who enroll before fall 2013, will not be affected and will continue to pay the full-time undergraduate rate based on 12 credit hours.

The plan will save money for students and their families by providing an incentive to finish college in four years. Adding just one year of college costs an extra $24,000. The state-funded HOPE Scholarship and all institutional scholarships expire in four years. Delays in graduation also translate into later entry into the workforce, which lessens lifetime earnings and causes a greater accumulation of interest on educational loans.

But students aren’t the only ones who benefit from on-time completion. Four-year graduation rates are an important benchmark in university rankings and can help move UT forward in its Top 25 journey. On-time graduation rates are also part of the formula the state uses in determining the university’s funding.

This new tuition model will add $6 million to the university’s bottom line. That money will be used to add staff for high-demand courses and labs, hire more advisors and tutors, enhance summer school and online course options, and provide more need-based scholarships.

In the long term, increased college graduation rates help all of Tennessee by creating a better-educated workforce ready to tackle tomorrow’s problems.

For more information about Take 15, Graduate in 4, visit the Financial Aid website.