University of Houston commencement marks several special “firsts” for first-generation college student Yuvani Ochoa. Not only will she become the first in her family with a college degree, but she’s also a member of the first UHin4 graduating class. Four years after enrolling at UH, Ochoa has earned a degree in economics. This is a big accomplishment — fewer than 40 percent of students nationwide earn a degree in four years according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“I’d say UHin4 has been a great success. Without it, I don’t think I would be graduating in four years,” said Ochoa. “The goal was to graduate in four years. I wanted to go and study and go ahead and get my career started.”
For Ochoa and other students who graduate in four years versus six years, it’s an investment that can pay off…. bigtime. When factoring what students can save on education expenses coupled with how much they will earn by entering the workforce two years sooner, the savings can be upward of $200,000.
Started in 2014, UHin4 offers fixed-rate tuition to incoming freshman, which guarantees the same tuition rate for four consecutive academic years. The UHin4 Four-Year Graduation Plan outlines responsibilities of both students and the University in achieving timely college completion. Students are required to successfully complete a minimum of 30 semester credit hours per year toward their degree, remain in good academic standing, select courses consistent with degree requirements and meet with an advisor each semester.
Almost half of the incoming freshman class participated in the program when it began four years ago. Last year, the number of students participating rose to 71 percent. Notably, 75 percent of African-American freshmen enrolled in UHin4 in 2017, the highest participation rate of any ethnic group. When the graduation rate for the first UHin4 cohort becomes available at then end of the summer session, the University expects it will far exceed that of students who are not enrolled in the program
“The UHin4 program continues to see success through its core mission of providing students with an exit plan to graduate in four years, saving time and money,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “We set out to create the UHin4 program to raise our four-year graduation rates, and we are well on our way towards that goal with the graduating class of 2018.”
For its part in UHin4, the University is responsible for delivering courses needed for degree completion and must provide updated academic maps that reflect requirements in a recommended sequence over eight semesters. UH also ensures advisor availability and provides degree monitoring tools and coaching.
“It was really helpful to be able to go and talk to an advisor who knew exactly what I was going through and gave me the perfect advice,” said Ochoa. “The plan they provided helped me out a lot.”
“My parents are very thankful for the fixed tuition. I can just focus on my schoolwork and don’t have to worry about an increase,” said Megan Hill, a biology major who’s also a member of the first UHin4 graduating class. “I feel like I’m blessed to be in a program like this. It helps me to stay focused and keep motivated to do well.”
UHin4 students have been retained at a higher rate and have demonstrated superior academic performance and progress compared to non-UHin4 students. Of students in the first UHin4 cohort, 67 percent completed 90 credit hours by the end of their third year, eight percentage points higher than the prior three-year average.
For Ochoa, UHin4 was a game-changer. She’s recommended the program to her younger sister who will attend UH in the fall.
“There’s just no reason not to do UHin4,” she said.