When budgets are tight and every dollar counts, creating a game plan to graduate from college in four years becomes vitally important to students and their families. A program that can keep students focused on the goal of graduating can mean the difference between obtaining a degree in four years, six years or, perhaps, not at all.

Savvy University of Houston students committed to graduating on time – and on budget – are enrolling in UHin4. Introduced in 2014, UHin4 is setting the standard for student achievement in higher education with its priority enrollment opportunities, academic maps and planning resources, combined with the opportunity to enroll in the fixed rate tuition program. In fact, of the 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.

 “I decided to participate in UHin4 because it is saving a lot of money for my parents who work so hard just to pay for my education,” explained UH junior Jose Romero who is working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts-Painting and a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media with a minor in Art History. To cover the costs of his books and materials, Romero also works to take some of the financial burden off his parents.

When students combine the UHin4 program with the fixed-rate tuition option, they have the potential to save nearly $200,000 in their lifetime when factoring in savings in education expenses and the ability to enter the workforce gaining additional years of salary and retirement funds.

 “Our goal is to help students successfully enter the workforce or qualify for advanced education programs, and the first step is providing the tools necessary to clearly navigate through their degree plan,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “UHin4 is successful because it comprehensively addresses the personal, organizational and financial needs of our students.”  

The program is offered to incoming freshmen who are required to successfully complete a minimum of 30 semester credit hours – approximately 10 classes – each year toward their degree. In addition, they need to remain in good academic standing, select courses consistent with their degree requirements and meet with an advisor each semester.

 “My academic advisors have been amazing,” Romero said. “They’ve helped me answer almost every question I have about my classes, and they pointed me in the right direction by always suggesting to me a plan of action.” 

UH is changing the traditional paradigm of recruiting, retaining and graduating students and has developed its own “plan of action” for the development of new programs and partnerships. While UHin4 is beneficial for incoming freshmen, the university also needed a solution for the approximately 40 percent of incoming students transferring to UH from regional community colleges. Houston Guided Pathways to Success, or Houston GPS, serves as a complementary option to UHin4.

Currently, 12 colleges in Houston and the Gulf Coast region are partners in Houston GPS, which is designed to provide a smooth two-year to four-year college transfer plan. At the heart of the partnership are degree-specific academic plans shaped by the institutions to move students through to graduation without acquiring unnecessary credits or inadvertently bypassing credits essential to graduation. Like UHin4, participating schools also manage students’ progress through proactive advising sessions and technology.

“Research shows that attaining a degree has long-term, positive impact on the lives of our students, their families and their community,” Short said. “We want all our UH students to end as they begin – with a clear plan for their goal and a support system that is tailored to help them achieve their dreams.”