Degree guarantee not available to everyone who wants it

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This fall, the University of Calgary became the first university in Canada to offer a four-year graduation guarantee, but only first-year students in the faculties of communication and culture, social sciences, science and humanities were eligible to enrol.

The program requires students complete one-quarter of their degree each year and meet with an academic advisor. In return, if an unavailable course results in failure to graduate, the university will offer alternate arrangements or waive the tuition required to take the course next semester.

"We know that can happen to students from time to time and we just want to make sure that we can address it where it does happen so that there is space in those high-demand required courses," said vice-provost students Ann Tierney, who helped develop the program. "Now does that sometimes happen in faculties that are not part of this guarantee? It may and that is something we'll look at this year and see. Sometimes those things can get resolved on an individual basis, but I think what this program allows us to do is address them on a more systematic basis."

The rationale for initially offering the program to these faculties was based on their interdisciplinary nature. The university will assess the program's effectiveness and determine what adjustments are necessary to implement it in other faculties.

"It wasn't an intentional decision to leave someone out," said Tierney. "But rather to find the best place to start."

While the Undergraduate Programs Office only advises faculties included in the guarantee, academic advisors are available to students in every faculty.

"Our students get lots of one-on-one attention that I think they are sort of striving for within this four-year guarantee," said faculty of fine arts acting associate dean Joelle Welling. "We already do a lot of the things that are within that guarantee."

Fine arts is not included in the guarantee. Professional faculties such as engineering may be more structured than the arts and science programs, but they also have occasional issues with course availability.

The graduation guarantee offers some reassurances that students in faculties outside of the program would appreciate.

"It would give us a sense of encouragement," said first-year engineering student Tina Shum. "I think it would be a benefit. Even though the majority of engineering students might not use it, it would be a morale booster for sure."

Other students would like to see the program expanded in the future.

"It would keep students more on schedule and on track." said fourth-year faculty of medicine community rehabilitation student Chelsea Cowle.