Arkansas law allows students to earn degree with fewer hours

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas lawmakers recently passed a bill that caps the number of hours needed to acquire a bachelor's degree.  Instead of 124 hours or more students can now graduate with just 120 semester hours.

"The fact is, if you just take 12 hours a semester you're not going to get out of here in four years," said ASU student Amber Horton.

That's why Arkansas lawmakers have passed Act 747 that, in part, lowers the number of hours required for a Bachelors degree.

"120 hours is relatively standard across the nation for baccalaureate degrees.  There are some areas that require more hours," said Dr. Lynita Cooksey, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Cooksey said they can likely cut hours from degrees in sciences, agriculture, humanities and social sciences and others.

"We're going to have to look at each of our programs that exceed 120 and determine where we're going to make those cuts," said Cooksey.

She said the preference would be to make cuts in electives.  Even though the bill has passed it won't actually affect every degree program at ASU.  There are still some programs that will require more than just 120 hours.  Cooksey said some programs are required to have a certain number of hours through their accreditation.  Other degrees may require a certain number of hours to meet standards for licensing.

"When the federal government is looking at handing out money for aid and grants and so forth, they would like it to be more standardized because they don't want the six-year graduate," said Cooksey.

"I have several friends that have to go an extra semester, an extra year, or an extra year and a half," said Amy McKenzie.

And for those with scholarships or who receive federal funding going those extra semesters can cost them.

"Eight semesters is kind of a magical number because student scholarships are usually for eight semesters.  Financial aid that may be federal financial aid, Pell Grants and so forth, is usually for eight semesters," said Cooksey.

"If you live on campus you have to pay for that.  Several different things that you have to look at for that and it also delays the fact that when you don't graduate you're not earning money," said McKenzie.

Cooksey says these new requirements will likely not be enforced until 2012 or 2013.  The bill also will make the ability for students to transfer their credit hours more simple.  It will make the course numbering system standard for state colleges so that there is no question of if the student took the same course or not.

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