How many years does it take to get a degree? Ask UAA’s marketing department, and they’ll tell you to stay on track and get it done in four. That’s what all of the advertisements across campus and on the Seawolf Shuttles say.
That’s what I was expecting when I graduated from high school and looked to going to UAA: four years. That’s what my parents and advisers were saying.
But now that I’m on my fourth year, it’s looking like this schtick is going to drag on for a while, at least for another semester or two. And I’m not alone. According to polls from the National Center of Education Statistics, almost 60 percent of college students take six years to graduate.
So what’s with this divide of how long we imagine college ideally is and how long it really is? There are a variety of factors.
In my case, it’s course availability. Some of my required courses simply aren’t available at the right times. Overall, I’d say I’ve done a terrible job judging what classes to take at what times because now that I have my required journalism credits, I have to wait for a GER class to open. Sometimes, as has been mentioned in previous opinion pieces, required classes don’t have enough registered students and simply have to cancel.
This sounds like poor planning on my part, but I’ve heard similar stories all around campus, too. New students have no idea what kinds of requirements they’ll need and when they’re available — and while some departments do a great job of reminding students when required classes are available (another shameless shout-out to the Journalism Department here), it appears that others don’t.
Sometimes there’s an internment that gets in the way of an important class. Sometimes a student will want to change his or her major. Sometimes students want to take a semester off so they can save enough money for the next. All of these issues compound on one another to create a situation where four years isn’t a realistic goal anymore.
And really, I can see why UAA wants students out in four years. A large percentage of students who graduate in that time makes UAA look good compared to other universities. In addition, students who delay their graduation are also throwing valuable years away where they could be working and earning money in their fields of choice. And the longer a student waits, the more valuable taxpayer money is wasted on subsidies and loans.
As we can see, this is a huge problem, one that requires a lot of thought. UAA’s been holding summer activities and classes for new students to help them plan for a four-year education, but from what I’ve been seeing and hearing around campus, that hasn’t exactly been doing the trick.
UAA is throwing a lot of money at the issue, and while I’ll concede that it’s working a little bit, there’s still a lot more they could do. But as for what to do? I have no idea, I’m just a man who plays video games and makes money writing about them. But this is still an important topic that will require a lot of planning and discussion from both the UAA community and the higher-ups at the University of Alaska.
Fixing this issue will be greatly beneficial for UAA, the students and the community at large, so it’s clearly worth doing. But the question of how requires much more discussion than what is being held now.