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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Academics & Research

Provost’s office denies proposal for ‘UHin5’ architecture program


Student Government Association Senator Hunter Bodiford said the move was inspired by students’ inability to keep up with extra costs. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

The blueprint of graduation status has been called into question for future architects.

After being encouraged by his constituents to address their concerns about the UHin4 fixed-tuition degree plan, Student Government Association architecture Sen. Hunter Bodiford met with Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Student Success Teri Elkins Longacre in November to discuss a potential five-year comprehensive plan, which was ultimately decided against.

The initiative would have advocated for students in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design who are currently on the five-year bachelor of architecture degree plan and have difficulty keeping up with the program’s financial requirements.

“A financial break is desperately needed for students who work hard for their degrees,” Bodiford said.

On average, architecture students spend over $900 per year on model materials and $750 per year in printing costs that they don’t receive reimbursement for, Bodiford said.

The total cost of tuition for a bachelor’s degree in architecture at a non-fixed rate in 2016 is approximately $57,920, not including additional university or housing fees. The total cost of tuition for a four-year program, such as interior architecture, in 2016 in the UHin4 fixed tuition plan is approximately $39,616.

“Any money saved would be incredibly helpful for students,” Bodiford said.

Interior architecture senior Logan Scott, who is in his final year in the UHin4 program, believes a five-year plan would prove helpful for students who may be struggling. Scott considers himself and other members of the program to be at an unfair advantage over five-year students.

“For those students who are, by nature of the degree, in school longer than the average college attendee, it would be greatly beneficial both financially and academically,” Scott said. “To restrict privileges to those students with a shorter degree plan — when those who are in longer programs are arguably more dedicated to their academic career — is callous to the needs of five-year students.”

Statewide, the UHin4 program is not the only tuition program to cap at four years.

For reference, the University of Texas’s School of Architecture boasts a five-year bachelor’s of architecture professional degree, a five-year plus summers dual-degree in a bachelor’s of architecture and arts and even a six-year dual professional degree in a bachelor of architecture and science in architectural engineering.

Its Longhorn Fixed Tuition program also covers only four consecutive academic years.

Architecture junior Brianna Blatchley supports herself financially, and she’s often not able to go out to eat, buy new clothes or even enjoy school holidays because she’s in the studio.

“I’ve spent hundreds of dollars in just my first semester on materials for projects,” Blatchley said. “And hundreds on the Keeland Center. That doesn’t include the beginning of the year supply package that was offered which I paid $400+ on. Architecture is an expensive major, and the school doesn’t seem to be going out of their way to make it easier on students’ pockets.”

Blatchley credits the program for pushing students to their intellectual and creative limits, but wishes the program was cheaper and the University covered more supplies.

In an attempt to advocate for students like Blatchley, Bodiford was willing to concede on the program offering only the first four years with a fixed tuition, leaving the last year uncapped and subject to any increase in tuition at the time of enrollment.

Even so, Director of Marketing and Communication for the Office of the Provost Christine Klocke said there are no plans to extend the UHin4 program or the four-year fixed tuition degree programs that require more than four years to complete, despite the financial difficulties architecture majors face.

“To date, 99 percent of undergraduate degrees are eligible for the UHin4 program,” Klocke said.

Several degrees within the College of Architecture, including environmental design, industrial design and interior architecture, are eligible for the program, Klocke said. Ninety-five percent of the class of 2020 is enrolled full-time, with 70 percent enrolled in UHin4.

But Bodiford’s concerns went beyond program eligibility and enrollment rates.

For bachelor of architecture students, a fixed amount of studio hours are required per year. During their first year of the architecture program, the set studio schedule consists of Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-noon. The second and third year, the set schedule is Monday through Friday 1-5 p.m., and for their fourth and fifth years, the studio times are 1-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Despite these time restraints, students receive only five credit hours per studio session, Bodiford said.

“With those kinds of required in-class hours, a standard job is hard to maintain, and that does not even begin to describe the outside hours that students spend on their projects,” Bodiford said.

After meeting with Longacre, Bodiford has no further plans regarding UHin4 reform. Additionally, “no discussions are underway” in the Office of the Provost to alter the architecture program, Klocke said.

Regardless, Bodiford intends to continue communicating with the administration on behalf of architecture students.

“I know firsthand how hard architecture students work, and at the end of the day, on paper, if they produce and complete the same requirements as other students, they should be eligible for the same benefits,” Bodiford said.

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