More and More Students Graduating in 3 Years or Less at UVA

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A special group of students will take part in the final exercises at the University of Virginia this weekend. The difference - they are younger than most of their peers after they fast-tracked their education.

This year, 84 graduates will accept their diplomas after only three years or less at UVA. The university says these early graduates are part of a growing trend, and for the first time ever at this weekend's final exercises, they're being honored in a special way.  

To her fellow third-year students, Amber Osinga's new graduation garb is a bit of an enigma.    

"It's always hard explaining it to people. Like when people ask what year you are, it's hard to explain that I'm a third year but I'm also graduating," said Osinga.  "I just thought, I'm going to get this done, and head on out."

UVA Senior Vice Provost Milton Adams says the rising number of early graduates can be traced back to a couple of different factors.

"We have always had a few students, but the numbers of students this year are about three times what they were say six or seven years ago," said Adams.

Poor economic conditions are pressuring more cash-strapped students to graduate early. Many students are also coming in to UVA with more college credits than ever before. 

"They're arriving to us better prepared, more advanced in their studies, and so we should really take advantage of that," said Adams.    

This year - for the first time ever - UVA is taking an extra step to honor its fast-track grads - awarding them unique, orange graduation stoles to commemorate their achievements.   

"They've worked hard, they've accomplished a lot, and I think President Sullivan wanted to recognize that," said Adams.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm ready to move on, so I myself would recommend it," said Osinga.

As if that wasn't enough, 11 early graduates will also receive master's degrees in their chosen field of study, thanks to the 3+1 Program. It allows students to finish a bachelor's degree in three years, followed by a one-year master's program.

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