A cap and gown doesn’t necessarily mean graduation for some at UWRF

Posted May 4, 2016

When it comes time to apply for graduation, UW-River Falls students sometimes run into roadblocks that do not necessarily hold them back from participating in the commencement ceremony, but when they shake the chancellor’s hand, there is no degree handed out.

These students may be required to complete graduation requirements during a separate term after commencement in order for them to fully earn their degree.

The Registrar Office’s at UWRF is in charge of approving applications for graduation. When it receives the initial application, the first thing it does is analyze the student’s degree audit report (DAR) to be sure they have completed all requirements.

“I think it’s just constantly looking at their degree audit and checking in with their advisor periodically,” said Kelly Browning, assistant registrar at UW-River Falls, on how to avoid not completing a degree.

Certain exceptions are available, however, particularly for transfer students. They could have completed courses that are similar to courses offered at UWRF, however are not exactly equivalent. This is handled on case-by-case basis by the dean of the particular college.

“I look at the requirements that we have within in our own general ed(ucation). Like what are the goals that are supposed to be being met for that area, and does that course seem to meet that goal,” said Tricia Davis, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She handles exceptions for students in the college.

“We encourage them to work with their advisors, the constant checking of the degree audit,” Browning said. “But it’s ultimately up to the students to take responsibility over their degree program.”

Davis suggested all students do one key step before their potentially final semester at UWRF: “After you register for classes in what you think is your final semester here, run your degree audit. Make sure you have pluses, and OKs in front of all the requirements.”

Davis also suggested students should carefully look at their DAR every semester. However, since changes were made in certain general education requirements, she says there are fewer program exceptions that are given out in certain cases. Exceptions made within a major are handled by department chairs. For the general education requirements, those exceptions are handled by the deans of the respective colleges.

With fewer general education requirements, students earn the non-negotiable 120-credit minimum quicker than before. However, without a minor requirement as part of the degree, there is less of a focus point for students.

Davis said this change in general education should be favorable to students looking for a quicker track to graduation, however, she wishes there was more focus for the credits that students take outside of the general education requirements and their major.

Students are allowed to participate in commencement after the semester in which they applied for graduation if they have the minimum 120 credits. However, if the student has not completed all their degree requirements, they must first finish them before being awarded the degree.

Davis said she has dealt with UWRF alumni who have found out 25 years after the fact, when they are up for a promotion, that they never actually earned their degree.

UWRF’s commencement this semester is scheduled Sunday, May 15, at the River Falls High School.