Posts tagged ‘four-year graduation rate’

December 4, 2014

Failure to graduate on time adds thousands of dollars to college costs

by Grace

Most College Students Don’t Earn a Degree in 4 Years, Study Finds

Is this really news to most people?

The vast majority of students at American public colleges do not graduate on time, according to a new report from Complete College America, a nonprofit group based in Indianapolis.

“Students and parents know that time is money,” said the report, called “Four-Year Myth.” “The reality is that our system of higher education costs too much, takes too long and graduates too few.”

At most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, the report found. Even at state flagship universities — selective, research-intensive institutions — only 36 percent of full-time students complete their bachelor’s degree on time.

Every extra year costs thousands of dollars.

… “it is costing students and their parents billions of extra dollars — $15,933 more in cost of attendance for every extra year of a public two-year college and $22,826 for every extra year at a public four-year college,” the report said. “Hands down, our best strategy to make college more affordable and a sure way to boost graduation rates over all is to ensure that many more students graduate on time.”

Students who require remediation, transfers between colleges, and too many course choices are blamed for failure to graduate on time.

Each year, the report said, 1.7 million students begin college in remediation, including a majority of community college students — but only one in 10 remedial students ever graduate.

Also, 60 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients change colleges, with almost half of them losing some of their credits when they transfer.

Too much choice in college catalogs contributes to the problem, the report said, often overwhelming 18-year-olds “with an enormous cafeteria of possibilities in the college curriculum” and too few counselors to help them chart their course.

Here are some more “Common reasons for failing to graduate college in four years”.


Tamar Lewin, “Most College Students Don’t Earn a Degree in 4 Years, Study Finds”, New York Times, Dec. 1, 2014.

October 1, 2013

Common reasons for failing to graduate college in four years

by Grace

One of the surest ways to cut college costs is to graduate in four years or less, but today most full-time college students fail to meet that goal.


Being aware of the typical pitfalls that tend to delay graduation can help parents and students in taking the steps needed to get that college degree in four years instead of five or six.  Here are what some CollegeConfidential parents say are reasons so few students graduate in four years.

  • Students working too many hours
  • Classes needed to graduate are not available, sometimes related to budget cuts but often just because the recommended sequence of study means every course is not offered every semester.  If a student gets off track, it may be difficult to fit in all required courses within four years.
  • Starting without a plan
  • Not taking a full load each semester. Not paying careful attention to graduation requirements.
  • Transferring between schools, with not all courses transferring with credit
  • Changing majors, sometimes more than once
  • Adding a second major or minor
  • Partying too much
  • Lacking motivation or persistence
  • Poor academic advising
  • Not prepared for college level work, needing remedial courses or dropping, failing or having to repeat a course/courses.  Not being able to handle a full load on average.
  • The growing attitude that everyone should go to college, with the result that many students who are not prepared for college-level work are pushed to attend.
  • Running out of money
  • Not understanding that while 12 credits is considered full-time, that’s not enough to graduate.
  • Taking time out for an internship or co-op
  • Some majors at some schools are particularly difficult to complete in four years.  Often engineering is like this, sometimes because most students find it too challenging to stay on track with a full schedule of courses that leaves little room for flexibility.

Private schools have better four-year graduation rates than public schools, but a goal-oriented student who plans ahead and is well prepared for college level work has a high probability of graduating on time wherever he attends.  It should be noted that many students actually plan ahead knowing they will take longer to finish college, often for legitimate financial reasons.

Some colleges seem to want to keep students as long as possible.

Sometimes colleges seem to encourage students to take their time and not rush through college.   When I was visiting prospective colleges with my son, several speakers told us there was no need to be in a hurry to pick a major.  They stressed that it wasn’t really necessary to select a major until junior year, a move which seems like a good way to keep a student from graduating in four years.

I took five years to complete my degree.  The reasons were poor planning due to ignorance about career options and changing my major at the end of my junior year.

Related:  2013, Digest of Education Statistics 2012, Table 376. Percentage of first-time full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students at 4-year institutions who completed a bachelor’s degree, by race/ethnicity, time to completion, sex, and control of institution: Selected cohort entry years, 1996 through 2005 

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