In recent years, college students have been taking longer than expected to graduate. The typical four-year bachelor’s degree is stretching into six and even eight years. Even at these extended periods, graduation rates are not promising. Some would attribute this to a lack of time spent studying. Yes, that could be the case, however many of these students aren’t slacking off. Tuition rates during the past years have steadily risen. As a result, some students spend more time working to pay their way through college. The time spent working is becoming more detrimental than the debt.
In a recent study released by Complete College America, the more time a student takes to finish college hinders a student’s graduation rate, rather than increase it. On average, 60.6 percent of full time students finish a bachelor’s degree within eight years. In Pennsylvania, about half of all full- time students graduate within eight years, while only 32.3 percent actually finish within four years, according to the CCA.
For part-time students, the issue is worse. In Pennsylvania, 13.3 percent of students graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years, and only 15.9 percent graduate within eight years. These numbers don’t increase enough to show that the students will graduate, no matter how much time is allotted.
At Temple, only 66 percent of full-time students finish their bachelor’s degree within six years. There are many obstacles students must overcome to graduate. They look to the academic advising and sometimes receive incorrect or vague information. Students get lost in the large Temple student body and take matters into their own hands. This leads to choosing incorrect or unneeded classes. Students then end up with the wrong curriculum and are forced to enroll for more semesters to fix their mistake.
Ever increasing tuition costs are also no help to these students who find themselves off their projected graduation date. At Temple, this past year’s state budget cuts led to a tuition increase of approximately six percent. Operating Budget Request for the 2011-12 fiscal year, reported that during the past decade tuition has jumped approximately 70 percent. And that statistic is one of the lowest, with neighboring schools raising tuition even higher.
To pay for these rising costs, more and more students have faced the reality that they must work through college to actually remain enrolled. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009, 41 percent of full-time students and 76 percent of part- time students were employed. In terms of full-time students, this rate is up from 34 percent in 1970. This is a large group of college age students who cannot devote their entire focus to school. These students miss out on many other aspects of college. They often do not have time to spend at clubs or sporting events. The stress of working can pile up, and they are left with no way to unwind.
Temple cannot just blame the students for this lack of success. The university can step up to make changes to this epidemic. Curriculums of majors should be more than just a suggested sequence of classes on the academic bulletin. Advisors should have closer connections with students and learn to understand their unique needs.
These are disheartening statistics for students who are trying to make ends meet. For some the balance between work and studies are just too much. School should be their “job,” but for many that is not an option.
Some students may feel like they never want their college years to end, but for some, more time here just delays the debt to be paid if they do finally graduate.
Sarae Gdovin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.