The notion of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in four years has become less of a realization for many college students across the country and at Weber State University. For many, it will most likely take five to six years.
“I agree that a four year plan is not really realistic,” said civic advocacy major Jessica Kagie. “It’s such a journey going through school and you’re still figuring things out. If you started out square one knowing what you wanted to do, it might be a little easier. If you took every class you need and got the grade you wanted every time then maybe in four years it could be done.”
According to Education Trust, an independent, non-profit organization, only about 37 percent of freshmen entering a four-year bachelor’s degree program will reach that goal in four years. Around 26 percent take five or six years to complete the program.
The statistics are a bit different for WSU students. According to the institutional research department, about 54 percent of WSU students fall into the category of “first-time, full-time” students, which means that these are first-year freshman students who are attending school full-time at 12 credit hours or more. Of that 54 percent, only about 12 percent graduate in a four-year time span, 29 percent graduate in five years and about 43 percent graduate within six years.
Kagie falls into the “first-time, full-time category” and said she is still unsure if she will graduate at the four year mark. She said it may take her one or two extra semesters.
“I’ve been on track so far, haven’t failed any classes and it still may take me an extra semester just because I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said. “I have a couple extra generals. Then you get into the department and you have to figure out when classes you need are offered. I still have two semesters to go, who knows what will happen.”
A large portion of WSU’s student demographic falls under the nontraditional category. These are students who have spouses, children or are above the age of 25. For many of these students, a four-year plan isn’t as easy when factoring in family life.
Communication major Candice Baer is one of these nontraditional students. She is a single mother of two children. Because of circumstances such as raising her children, being ill and changing her major, Baer said she estimates it will take her closer to eight years to graduate from WSU.
“If you’re a parent, you have to work a full-time job while going to school, which makes it really hard to carry a full work load,” Baer said. “Even working a part time job was too much with a full load and kids.”
Another reason why students are taking a bit longer to graduate is the financial factor. Any student who may have lost financial aid or is paying for tuition out of pocket may be taking breaks between semesters to save up enough money.
Along with that, many students have jobs they need to schedule around. Some have multiple jobs, while others are working a part-time job to help pay for tuition costs. 27 percent of WSU students work a full-time job and 42 percent work part time.
Other factors like changing majors, church missions, doubling up on majors or transferring from other schools can also be a hindrance to the four-year plan.
“I switched my major three times,” Baer said. “I started out with elementary education, then I decided to go for English with a communications minor, but I liked my communication classes so much that I changed to a communication major. That kind of made it even worse. My GPA took a nosedive, and then I got pregnant with my daughter and was really ill, so I couldn’t take classes.”