Most of us think that students can graduate from a community college in two years, other colleges in four years, and then take additional courses for a specific profession in post-graduate classes. But a recent study by Complete College America sheds a new light on these assumptions. Entitled “Four-Year MYTH,” the report details the reasons behind the failure to graduate “on time,” and chronicles its associated costs.
This information is crucial to high school and college students, and their parents, who want to assess a college’s completion rate so they can budget accordingly. Some important takeaways:
• Understand a College’s Graduation Rate: Students considering a particular college are advised to inquire about the graduation rate. Now they must also find out whether “graduates” are being benchmarked against a standard of three years for an associate’s degree and six years for a bachelor’s degree.
• Know the Costs: The report states that expanded graduation timeframes could cost almost $16,000 in additional tuition and fees at a “two year” college, and over $22,000 at a public “four year” college, not to mention the wages lost while spending additional time in college.
• Watch Financial Aid: College financial aid is often based on criteria such as carrying a specific number of hours or making satisfactory academic progress. Failure to graduate within the anticipated timeframes could affect a student’s financial aid eligibility. College scholarships may not be extended for students who take longer than two or four years.
Graduate On Time to Maintain Financial Aid Eligibility
There are some steps you can take to help insure graduation within the anticipated timeframe:
• Check Course Availability: Know what courses are needed to graduate with a specific degree, and make sure those courses are offered frequently enough to fit your class schedule.
• Understand Remediation Requirements: Some colleges have entrance testing requirements for subjects such as math. Students who fail to meet certain achievement levels are required to take remedial classes, which can cost both time and money. Make sure you know your college’s required academic levels before beginning school.
• High School Courses: If they are offered at your high school, try to take as many Advanced Placement (AP) classes as possible. These can reduce the number of hours and money required in college.
• Know the Curriculum Requirements: One fault the study found was that colleges simply offer too many courses, and students have a difficult time choosing. Know exactly what is required to graduate with your desired degree and take only courses that help achieve that goal.
• Watch Transfer Credits: If you decide you want to transfer, make sure the next college you choose accepts a high percentage of your credits, so you won’t be forced to take the same classes again.
Talk to a professional College Financial Aid Advisor who can help make sure you understand the financial consequences of not graduating “on time.” Contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA).