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SUNY Buffalo State to guarantee students can graduate in four years

Add SUNY Buffalo State to the list of New York public colleges and universities guaranteeing their students can graduate in four years.

College officials announced on Tuesday that the college will cover tuition beyond four years or make other arrangements for students who are unable to enroll in a major course they need to earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.

The college is calling its initiative “Roar in 4,” a play on its mascot, the bengal tiger.

Buffalo State President Katherine S. Conway-Turner called the program a way for the college “to be more intentional about making sure students have a roadmap to a four-year graduation, so they don’t miss a beat.”

With affordability a major concern for many students and their families, the college must do all it can to help students move through their degree programs as quickly as possible, she said.

“Roar in 4” will start with freshmen enrolling in fall 2016.

Buffalo State will join the University at Buffalo and SUNY Fredonia among Western New York public schools offering a four-year guarantee.

UB began offering its “Finish in Four” in 2012, and even though the first group of undergraduates to be affected by the program won’t graduate until May, university officials have said they already have a sense the program is working.

UB’s four-year graduation rate was 52 percent in 2013, the latest data available. University officials want to see that increase to 60 percent.

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher this past January called upon all 34 state-operated campuses and 30 community colleges within the state system to develop four-year and two-year graduation guarantees for full-time students, along the lines of UB’s program.

Buffalo State’s four-year graduation rate was 25 percent in 2013. Its six-year graduation rate was 49 percent.

Not every student will want to participate in “Roar in 4,” Conway-Turner said. Some students will choose to have more than one major or to study abroad – both of which could prolong their time to degree, she said.

But the college will guarantee that it has enough sections of courses to ensure that students progress toward completion, she said.

To hold up their end of the bargain, students will be required to complete at least 15 credits each semester or enroll in a summer session or January session if they fall below 15 credits in a fall or spring semester. They also must meet regularly with an academic adviser.

At a cost of $7.5 million, UB hired 150 instructors and added more than 300 new course sections to fulfill its pledge to students who signed on to “Finish in Four.”