One of the stipulations we set for students enrolled in our Give Something Back Foundation scholarship program is that they graduate from college in four years.
Four years, however, is no longer the standard according to a 2014 report from Complete College America. Across the U.S., only 50 out of more than 580 public four-year institutions graduate the majority of their full-time students in four years.
And Forbes reported that only 49 percent of students that enter one of its America’s Best Colleges graduates on time.
It has become routine for four-year colleges to measure graduation rates on a six-year time frame.
This is unacceptable to me, especially when we consider that students and their families are trying frantically to control the costs of college, which are skyrocketing. Delays in obtaining a bachelor’s degree are costing families billions in extra college expenses. Complete College America outlined these additional statistics:
- At public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students graduate in four years.
- At flagship or research universities, only 36 percent of full-time students graduate in four years.
- Each additional year of college costs nearly $23,000 for tuition (in state), room, board, and fees.
- Debt increases by nearly 70 percent for students who borrow to attend colleges for two additional years.
I recognize that there are many justifiable reasons why students don’t graduate on time, and usually these reasons are beyond a student’s control. Most often than not it’s because a student is financing his or her own education and needs to slow down the course load in order to work his/her way through school.
In my opinion, students are better off both academically and financially if they enroll in enough classes to earn a degree in four years—even though they may incur debt. By graduating sooner, a person can also enter the work force faster, get on-the-job training faster and obtain a higher paying job that will enable them to pay off their loans more quickly after graduation.
I also think that by working their way through college and delaying graduation, many of these students are working their way out of a diploma; they simply become too burned out.
Ensuring our Give Something Back Foundation scholars graduate on time is a priority if we want to be able to fund as many college educations as possible. Our mentoring program prepares the students to meet the rigorous demands of college while still in high school—so obtaining a degree in four years is all the more attainable. This kind of extra support can go a long way; it helps kids graduate sooner, gets them into the work force faster, and that helps the economy.
Making it possible for students to graduate in four years is financially responsible. It’s one of the smartest, most effective things that can be done to reduce the burden of student debt. The alarming statistics above back me up.
While the on-time graduation rates at 4-year colleges is not good, the on-time graduation rates at public two-year community colleges, where many financially disadvantaged students wind up, is truly pathetic. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 19.5% of such students graduate within three years and 10.8% of black students graduate within three years. Graduating on time should be very beneficial in all college settings.
Richard, What can we do to help hundreds of these students to get their Associates Degrees in 2 years. Is the problem money or something else? roc
Depressing but useful facts. Other than reducing poverty and helping lower income people earn more money, what suggestions can you think of to help reduce this program? roc
A number of community colleges or junior colleges have completion rates higher than 50% so one can see what they are doing that is successful. Often, they have financial aid packages which are attractive, special remedial programs for students to get them up to speed, and support and mentoring systems to promote good study habits and a work ethic. Some not-for-profits also provide assistance . The White House Report on Community Colleges (https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/higher-education/building-american-skills-through-community-colleges) is helpful in explaining the problems and mentioning ideas.
Another angle: Community College attracts students who are not prepared for college-level classes. Personally, it took me 3 years to get through 2-year Community College. Not because I wasn’t taking a full course load, but because I started college so many years after High School I lost the math. It took me a year (3 semesters) of remedial classes just to get to the 101 college-level mathematics standard. This is understandable – Community Colleges are full of people with similar stories. But Community Colleges are also full of students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They arrive straight out of High School, but lack the academic foundation they need to succeed. Pre-registration testing reveals this. These students need to work harder and longer to get through…. if they get through at all. We need to strengthen the public schools in disadvantaged areas and bring them up to the standard.
Carol, As a former Community College instructor I would like to know what we can do to help students who do not graduate in 2 years. What are your thoughts about how to help some of these students? roc
Hi Bob, my son is currently in a state University. He is in Engineering and his curriculum requires 4.5 years and a few of his required classes are only offered once a year. With the way his pre-requisites fall he will be in school an additional year just to get a few hours. Many students are double majoring just to fill their schedule!