Smith: Graduation complications must be addressed

Smith argues that more should be done to ensure that students graduate on time.

Jessica Smith

Jessica SmithWith the school year coming to a close, all Temple students – not just seniors – have their minds focused on graduation. Whether it’s this coming May or years away, we’ve all dreamt of the moment when we seize that diploma – or at least the totem of it – and throw our cap in the air to officially become a college graduate.

But there’s usually a deceitful amount of hurdles standing in the way of that sweet vindication. Whether it’s a grade that’s just a few decimal points off where it should be or a forgotten general education requirement, that walk to the podium might be a lot longer than anticipated.

The average amount of time to earn a bachelor’s degree is supposed to be four years, but often takes much longer. The Department of Education reports that less than 40 percent of students enrolled at a four-year college or university will actually be able to graduate on schedule.

Let’s look at why: There are more than 130 majors offered at Temple and full-time students are required to enroll in 12-17 credits worth of classes every semester. Though every program varies, most bachelor’s degree programs require a minimum of 123 credits. But the normal 15 credits per semester – five three-credit courses worth – average would only equate to 120 credits after eight semesters worth.

Yet it’s promoted as easily doable in four years, if you make the right decisions. But a lot of factors go into course enrollment and transcript oversight. There’s usually so much red tape involved with picking classes that most students find they can’t get into a class they absolutely need to take or have to jump through hoops to secure a spot.

“I signed up for courses while I was abroad in England,” said Genny Glassman, a senior English major. “One of the courses I signed up for is one of four English survey courses that everyone needs for the major. A week before the semester began, I got an email from Temple telling me that the location of my course had moved to a classroom at Ambler. Getting to the class and coming back eats up four hours of my day, but I had to take this to graduate on time.”

Course locations that change at the drop of a hat often jeopardize entire schedules and make it extremely difficult to manage time or preferences.

“I had to drop out of a Feminist Theory class I’d been trying to fit in my schedule for two years,” Glassman said. “I feel a little slighted that I had to make accommodations that take away from what I am passionate about and I feel like I have less agency in the direction of my degree.”

It’s a common happenstance for students to believe they can take a core requirement only to find out during scheduling that they’re missing the prerequisites for it. It’s an even bigger problem when they have to fill time with classes they’ve already completed.

“I took AP English in high school and got a five on my exam, but I ended up taking English 802 here,” said freshman biology major Jincy John. “I asked both my professor and adviser why I had to take it and they said my credit only exempted me from English 701. [It] doesn’t make sense to me why I had to take a course I already did in high school.”

Similarly, credits that don’t transfer can prevent course enrollment in both core requirements and gen-ed classes. This has been troublesome for students who transferred from other colleges and those who received AP credit in high school.

“I have AP credits from two courses that have not been processed through Temple’s system despite me sending them in multiple times this year,” said Emily Kaempf, a freshman kinesiology major. “I’ve been set back a day in registering because of this. Several times, the classes I wanted have filled up in that day.”

Due to these hiccups, students find that they continue to be pushed back in taking the classes that they should be in. There aren’t enough sections available for popular courses or for major requirements.

“My overall experience scheduling classes has been poor,” Kaempf said. “I’ve been blocked out of prerequisites due to places holding for people with different majors. It’s been extremely frustrating.”

Do the problems lie with Temple advisers and their poor communication with students? Or is it a student responsibility to regularly check their status?

In all honesty, there are a million obstacles in the way of a perfect schedule, but most arise with the system itself. Corrections have been made with the addition of wait-listing and the end of the washout period, but more needs to be done to make sure that graduation march doesn’t take an undue burden to arrive at fruition.

Jess Smith can be reached at 

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