For degree-seeking students, four years may not be enough time to graduate

456_2Across the nation students are feeling the effects of a modern lifestyle on their education. A four-year degree is nearly unheard of in college education. With jobs, financial instability and the ever-increasing cost of education it is taking students longer to receive a bachelor’s degree than is usually assumed.

“The life of typical college student is very complex,” said Linda Morgan, director of student advising at UAA. “The everyday life of a student takes time away from finishing college.”

In 2003, 788 full-time, Baccalaureate students enrolled at UAA, according to a study by the Office of Institutional Research. Four years later, in 2007, only 6.9 percent of those students had graduated. A year later, however, 18.8 percent had graduated, nearly tripling the number of graduates enrolled during 2003.

“This is happening all across the country,” Morgan said, “Pell grants and student loans are making college accessible to a broader scope of students. Many have part-time jobs, others have wives and children.”

Morgan said the average student tends to graduate around five years after enrollment.

Associate Vice Provost of Institutional Research, Gary Rice, explained the 150 percent rule. He said that a student should be able to finish a four year-degree in six years and associate degree in three years. But that’s if a student sticks with it.

“Many people don’t go to school every semester, and students will fail or drop classes,” Rice said. “Many departments at UAA are now requiring more credits to graduate, like the nursing program.”

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The Office of Institutional Research put together a ten-year, longitudinal study profiling college students. This study is being looked at across the nation as a new way to measure and research college students.

“There is no single one number for years it takes a student to graduate,” Rice said, “It varies by degree and student.”

Longer college education is a trend seen through the history of UAA. In 2005, 5.1 percent of students enrolled four years earlier had graduated. By 2006, 15.3 percent had graduated, a growth of 10.2 percent. In 2007, that same five-year time period showed an increase of 10.4 percent of graduating students. In 2008, the increase was 11.9 percent.

“It’s not like the curriculum is more burdensome,” said Morgan, “Social-economic reasons and the complexity of a student’s everyday life lead to a more drawn out college education.”