Implemented in 2007, it requires that students wanting to graduate with more than one major or with minors do so in eight semesters or fewer.
Cynthia Demetriou, the director for retention in the undergraduate office of education, said the main purpose of the policy is to ensure students are actually graduating on time.
“The goal of creating the eight-semester rule was to encourage students to stay on path to degree completion within eight semesters,” she said.
And according to Demetriou, that’s exactly what’s happened. The class graduating in 2011, four years after the rule was implemented, had a four-year graduation rate of 81.1 percent compared to 77 percent in the class of 2010.
“It’s really helped students stay on track to graduate on time, and I know sometimes students find it frustrating, (and) advisers find it frustrating, but from a perspective of getting students to degree completion, I think it’s been really successful,” she said.
Lee May, associate dean and director of academic advising, said UNC created the rule in response to students’ petitioning to be able to graduate with more than two areas of study — for example, two majors and a minor or a major and two minors.
“It was because students requested to be able to do up to three areas, and the faculty put up sort of boundaries around that,” May said.
Eric Johnson, a spokesperson for the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, said UNC’s satisfactory academic progress policy ensures students remain eligible for financial aid as long as they graduate with a bachelor’s degree in at most 150 percent of the length of their academic program.
“So if your degree program required 120 credit hours, the most you’re going to get federal aid eligibility for is 180,” he said.
Most UNC students, he said, would therefore not be at risk of losing aid eligibility for enrolling at UNC for up to four extra semesters.
An important exception to the rule for students to remember, May said, is that summer classes don’t penalize students and are an alternative to adding extra semesters outside of the traditional four-year range.
“Even if they don’t know until their senior year that, ‘Oh no, I’m not gonna be able to finish for whatever reason,’ then they could always choose to complete in August rather than come back the following fall,” she said.
The rule, however, can prove trickier for transfer students, Demetriou said, who don’t often have as much time to complete specific sequences of classes in STEM fields of study, for example.
Tori Placentra, a second-semester sophomore chemistry major and transfer student, said there are many factors that could jeopardize a transfer student’s graduating in eight semesters.
“Say something horrible happens and you fail one of those classes or something like that,” she said. “You have no room in your time here to make up for that.”
Johnson said it’s difficult to reconcile students’ passion for their studies and UNC’s expectation that these students will graduate on time.
“There’s always a balance between encouraging timely graduation and allowing flexibility in both different levels of student ability and desire to explore.”