By ALI CURTIS
Communications and Media Relations Manager, Indiana Commission for Higher Education
In their latest report, The Four-Year Myth, Complete College America and its Alliance of States reveal the vast majority of full-time American college students do not graduate on time, costing them and their families tens of thousands of dollars in extra college-related expenses, as well as lost wages from delaying entry into the workforce.
The report also points to spikes in debt in years five and six and shows that the overwhelming majority of public four-year colleges graduate less than half of their students on time.
At public two-year institutions nationwide, 5 percent of full-time students pursuing associates degrees graduate on time.
Only 50 out of the more than 580 reviewed public four-year institutions have on-time graduation rates at or above 50 percent for their full-time students.
Two extra years on campus increase debt by nearly 70 percent among students who borrow, according to data from Temple University and the University of Texas – Austin.
As a solution, Complete College America advocates for a restructuring of higher education delivery called Guided Pathways to Success that would provide students with the most direct route to graduation. Utilizing GPS, majors are organized into a semester-by-semester set of courses that lead to on-time completion, saving students and their families the time and money associated with extended time on campus.
In Indiana, a member of Complete College America’s Alliance of States, efforts are currently underway to address low on-time completion rates and to ensure college is more affordable.
“We know from experience in Indiana that an on time degree is the most affordable degree and the data suggest that many Indiana students would benefit from programs that offer greater predictability and more structured support,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education.
Indiana has a number of GPS-aligned initiatives underway that support on time completion, including:
• Requiring clear semester-by-semester degree maps for every public college student.
• Promoting more proactive college advising practices to keep students on track and intervene as needed.
• Launching a statewide “15 to Finish” campaign to change the long standing perception that taking 12 credits per semester is enough to graduate on time.
• 6 percent of full-time students pursuing associates degrees at two-year institutions graduate on time. On average, students graduate in four years with 93 credits (rather than the customary 60 credits). Each extra year costs $51,748 in school-related expenses and lost wages.
• 17 percent of full-time students at four-year non-flagship institutions graduate on time. On average, students graduate in five years with 143 credits, rather than the customary 120 credits. Each extra year costs $68,176 in school-related expenses and lost wages.
• 42 percent of full-time students at four-year flagship/very high research institutions graduate on time. On average, students graduate in 4.4 years with 134 credits, rather than the customary 120 credits. Each extra year costs $68,176 in school-related expenses and lost wages.