In an effort to increase UT’s four-year graduation rates, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences will no longer hold graduation ceremonies in December.
The decision comes as a response to a 2012 report published by the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates. The report concluded students are more likely to graduate in four years if they are able to socially integrate within the University.
“Identifying with your class is important,” said David Ochsner, director of public affairs for the College of Liberal Arts. “It creates a sense of belongingness, which encourages students to graduate in four years.”
Ochsner said having one annual graduation ceremony is a national trend among top universities.
While students recognize the importance of improving UT’s graduation rates, they still think shutting down fall ceremonies is a problem.
Math and psychology junior Kai Sheffield said she is graduating one semester late because of her dual degree.
“It’s not fair that my family will not get to see me walk in December of 2018,” Sheffield said.
Sheffield said her family members can see her walk across the stage in May 2019, but it will be a hassle for her because they will all have to drive from East Texas.
It is unclear if and when other colleges and schools will stop holding fall ceremonies, according to multiple University officials.
“I think it’s unfair,” public relations senior Vicente Carmona said. “It doesn’t align with the University’s core values. Graduation ceremonies, regardless of the semester, are invaluable events for students and their families.”
According to the University’s website, graduation rates have improved since the founding of the Student Success Initiatives office in 2012, reaching a record-high four-year graduation rate of 60.9 percent in 2016. Ochsner said the University’s goal is to reach a 70 percent four-year graduation rate, but that goal has not yet been met.
Student Affairs officials are still unsure if the effort will affect fall graduation at other colleges and schools within the University. Christina Ramirez, special programs coordinator at the McCombs School of Business, said her office is currently reviewing their graduation practices, while the College of Fine Arts said they will still hold a fall graduation this year.
Students in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences who plan to graduate in the fall will have the option to participate in graduation ceremonies the following spring.