Mom-Approved Tips: Insist Your Student Graduate in 4 Years or Less


Did you know that at most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years? Even at state flagship universities — selective, research-intensive institutions — only 36 percent of full-time students complete their bachelor’s degree on time.

Nationwide, only 50 of more than 580 public four-year institutions graduate a majority of their full-time students on time. Some of the causes of slow student progress are inability to register for required courses, credits lost in transfer and remediation sequences that do not work. Studying abroad can also contribute to added time and credits lost when abroad. According to a recent report from some students take too few credits per semester to finish on time. The problem is even worse at community colleges, where 5 percent of full-time students earned an associate degree within two years, and 15.9 percent earned a one- to two-year certificate on time.

graduate in 4 yearsWhat is lost when a student doesn’t graduate in 4 years?

MONEY! My good friend, and college counselor, Paul Hemphill of Planning for College put it into perspective recently. (See chart to the right). It’s not just the cost of the education that your student loses, but the earning potential over the additional year or years. Nothing speaks louder than cold, hard numbers.

What can parents do to ensure on-time graduation?

It’s not a difficult task, although the numbers might speak otherwise. Taking control of the process and making a plan will go a long way in ensuring on-time graduation

Show your student the numbers—Nothing speaks louder than showing your student a loss of thousands of dollars in earning potential if they don’t graduate on time.

Help them plan their major and degree plan, ensuring it can be done in 4 years—Help them plan, ask questions of their advisors, and have solid discussions about their career and/or major.

Encourage AP testing and dual-credit courses—With AP testing and dual-credit courses, a student can enter college with multiple credits out of the way. The cost of these tests and courses pales in comparison to the cost of a college credit and extra money paid if they don’t graduate on time. It’s conceivable that with the right planning, a student can graduate in less than 4 years.

Attend community college for the basics during the summer before college—Not only will your student get some courses out of the way at a cheaper rate, they will enter college with credits under their belt.

Use some tough love—Explain the importance of graduating on time and explain that you will support them for 4 years only. After that, the cost is on them. Nothing motivates a teen more than realizing they will have to pay for college themselves.

Below is a neat little graphic (courtesy of Paul Hemphill) breaking it down for you.

graduate in 4 years

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