Graduation Rates – A National Problem

Written by Syl Peterkin

Nobody plans to be dropout but the reality is more than 1/3rd of all students do! Most students don’t have a plan to drop out, but realistically it does happen for a number of reasons. People lose their scholarships (because of a bad grades, etc.), grants are dropped, family situations change and much more. The sad truth is that, nationally, 35% of students who enroll in college dropout in their first year.

A four year degree takes 4 years, right? Sad to say most students do not graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in 4 years. Even at St. John’s University in NY only 38% of students graduate in four years. This number jumps to 58% in 6 years. This is about where the national average is at for both public and private schools in four years (37%), and six years (55.9%).

Nobody plans to graduate in five or six years, but the sad reality is that you will most likely not graduate from college within the prescribed 4 years. Some students don’t think this is a big deal since they are enjoying college and are working a part-time job. A normal student thinks financial aid is covering most of their tuition (if their parents aren’t paying it) with State Financial Aid (covering possibly $5k of the tuition), Pell (Federal Financial Aid covering another $5k), a Grant from the school (covering 9k of the portion), a Scholarship (covering up to 10k) and a small student loan for $2500. Here is where things can get tricky; State Financial Aid is only typically only good for 8 semesters after that you won’t receive any more. A grant from the school can get eliminated at any time. A scholarship typically has stipulations like GPA or the length of their term. An average student doesn’t keep these in mind when planning their schedule, but at least 20% of the students (who will eventually make it to graduation in longer than 4 years) should at keep it in mind. Overlooking these facts could easily increase your student loans, private loans and/or the money you pay out of your pocket.

So how can someone improve their graduation rate? One of the simplest ways is to take more courses per semester. If 126 credits are required for your Bachelor’s degree, that would equal to 15.67 credits per semester. Taking under 15 credits per semester is a sure fire way to decrease your chances of graduating in 4 years. Taking 12 credits per semester will equal to a student graduating in slightly over 5 years. Taking 18 credits on the other hand allows a student to graduate in 3.5 years. A student can also take 18 credits for 4 semesters and 15 credits for 4 semesters and graduate in exactly 4 years. This is of course assuming a few things. One key is that you get the classes you need to graduate. So if a course is available ENROLL in it! You might be very surprised to know that often a course is not available when you might originally planned to take it for various reasons (they get closed, filled, dropped, conflict with a time you have for another course). The second key thing is that you don’t fail the courses you are taking. This seems pretty obvious until it happens to you. The third is that you don’t drop the courses you take! It may sometimes seem that it is the only option, but buckle down and do the work. If you don’t, you may be looking at not being the 38% of students who graduate in four years.


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