Is a four-year degree a thing of the past?

By Hannah Holmquist

At least one time in your college experience you will get the question, “What year are you?” As an incoming freshman you might love and even welcome this question, excited to let people know you are now a college student. If you are a senior you might hate this question by now and be offended people can’t tell you are a senior.

The answers people give are not limited to the simple, expected responses. While the most common answers are either freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, many students today are taking more than four years to complete their degree. There is not a simple explanation for this, and could be the result of multiple factors in the student’s life.

According to Forbes, students now are taking five years to complete a four-year program. This could be due to higher costs, limiting the amount of credits they are able to register for, but ultimately depends on the student’s financial situation. However, good news for us here at USD: private schools are less affected by this and the graduation rate is higher than at public schools.

The average four-year graduation rate at a private university is 59 percent, while 32 percent at a public university, according to Forbes. Luckily for USD students, the rate is 75 percent.

There are a few reasons why students are taking longer to complete their degrees. One reason could be they are involved in one or more internships in order to get field experience, and fall behind in classes as a result.

Another reason could be that students are financing their own college education and can only afford to take a few classes at a time, therefore being a part-time student taking classes when they can, instead of a full-time student on the four-year track. According to The New York Times, the top two common ways students choose colleges is by how it ranked in comparison with their other admissions or because they have a friend at the school.

If finances are the reason If financial difficulties are to blame for students not getting a four-year degree in four years, President Obama’s plan to make higher education easier to obtain should be able to help, making grants and financial aid more accessible to students, according to The New York Times. If this proposal passes, then students at higher ranked colleges would be able to get larger grants and more affordable loans.

Further, there are also those students that stay in college just because they do not want to face the “real world.” To many of us, college seems like a safe place; we have a nice routine of going to class and doing homework. Once out of college the job search begins and there is the scary possibility that you won’t be able to find a job right away. Then what do you do with your life?
Even though this seems like a more appealing option, there are benefits to graduating in four years. You can take advantage of the job opportunities that are or will be available, since many people aren’t graduating in four years.

Senior Stephanie Becvar shared her insight into four-year degrees.

“I think if you go to a school like USD, then it is possible [to graduate in four years],” Becvar said. “I don’t think it is as possible at a state school because there are a lot more people and you are just a number. At USD the classes are more personalized and the professors care about you.”

Since class sizes are smaller here, it is easier to build relationships with professors who will help you succeed not only in their class but in your academic goals.
Some students, on the other hand, simply do not plan out their classes ahead of time and have no plan year to year. This is why, even as incoming freshman, every student is given a preceptorial advisor, a faculty member there to assist students before they declare their major. Once declared, each student is paired with a faculty advisor, possibly their preceptorial advisor, to help them plan out the rest of their college career.

“I would tell you to go talk to an advisor,” Becvar said. “Even if you don’t know what your major will be, it is helpful. I wish I had gone to talk to an advisor because it would have made everything make more sense.”

Although Becvar did not speak to an advisor early on, she will still be graduating in four years because she planned ahead.

“Even when I graduated high school I heard you had to average 16.2 credits a semester in order to graduate in four years. I knew that if I was only taking 15 units a semester, I would have to take intersession or summer classes every year,” Becvar said.

However some people are just lazy. I personally have close friends that I won’t be graduating with. They didn’t figure out their four-year plan or even plan year to year in a smart way, failed classes and didn’t meet with their advisor. Therefore, they have to stay an extra year or even two.
Graduating in four years is not impossible. There are multiple resources on campus to help you plan your four years. Taking intersession or summer classes is a good way to catch up on credits you may need to graduate in four years.

Plan ahead, talk to your advisor and get a head start on the “real world” before most people. Four-year degrees are still achievable, and for the most part, ultimately up to you if you really want it.