Graduating on Time

Several recent articles and studies have cited the difficulty that undergraduate students seem to have in graduating from college on time. Students are taking longer and longer to earn their degrees, and according to a recent study, the average undergraduate degree now takes six years and seven months to complete. What is it that is causing a four-year degree to become an almost seven-year degree? There are several common factors that tend to get in the way of undergraduate students seeking their degrees.

-Work versus school-
With the growing cost of college, the rising number of students applying for federal financial aid, and the increasing number of students admitted to colleges each year, there is simply not enough money to go around to assist students in need. Because of this, most students have to hold down at least one job in order to make ends meet. Too often, scheduling conflicts present students with a dilemma: go to class and risk losing a job, or go to work and risk earning a lower grade? Many professors do not accept having to be at work as an excused absence, so students end up with grades lower than they really deserve and stress that makes raising their grades even harder. Other students choose to take a semester or a year off of school in order to save money, causing them to fall even further behind.

-Illness-
It is no secret that most college students get sick often. Schools are practically Petri dishes of infection, full of students too sick to be in class but not sick enough to justify an excused absence via a doctor’s note. Illnesses like flu, mono, and strep are especially rampant throughout the dorms and lecture halls, and even less savory infections like scabies can rear their ugly heads among college students. Some students become seriously ill due to the toll that the stress, malnutrition, lack of sleep, and infections take on their immune systems, and they are forced to withdraw in order to recover.

-Lack of available classes-
Most colleges have very specific requirements for their degrees in order to ensure a well-rounded class experience for each students. For instance, an English major may be required to take some low-level math or science classes in order to graduate. However, many other degrees require the same classes, and the competition for class space combined with fewer available sections due to budget cuts make it nearly impossible for students to complete these general education requirements in the four planned years. What’s more, the specialized classes are also being cut. The same English major may have to fill a semester with two required classes and three or four “filler” classes that are neither desired nor required for graduation simply to keep their full-time student status. This can lead to very stressful semesters that cause the student to fall even further behind.

Unless these three main issues are met with a solution soon, the dropout and late graduation rate will only increase. Students need to be able to finish school on time in order to avoid excessive student loan debt, have more time to search for careers, and simply get on with their lives.