It doesn’t take a college genius to know college is expensive! Take the average family’s current college spending of $20,882 per year, multiply that by four years, and a bachelor’s degree is over $80,000.
But there’s actually one more hidden cost, lurking in the shadows that very few parents realize: The hallowed, four year bachelor’s degree is actually taking most students five years to finish. Right now, only 19% of students finish their bachelor’s degree in four years.
So why does college take so long?
Here are the big reasons college takes five years, along with solutions you can use to protect your family from wasting time in college.
1. Excessive Remedial Courses
If students come into college unprepared for college level work, they are assigned non-college courses to get them up to speed. For example, fully half of community college students are assigned remedial courses, slowing down their progress.
Defense: Encourage your student to show their college ability through competency-based testing, and insist on only taking class time for courses that offer college credit.
2. Overloaded College Advisors
Look around a university web site for a couple of minutes and you’ll see how complicated degrees can get. There are General Education requirements, specific course prerequisites, discipline-specific courses…the list goes on. That can all be figured out, if your student gets enough time with their college advisor. Problem is, the average college advising session lasts less than a quarter of an hour because hundreds of students are competing for their time. That could be why the average BA student ends up with 14 credits more than what they need for their degree.
Defense: Find a college advisor who has time to help you. Or hire a degree advisor who can build a plan with you based on your student’s goals.
3. Degree Changes and Credit Transfers
Six of every ten students transfer on to another school before they graduate. Because of complicated transfer policies between schools, many students forfeit some of their hard-earned credits each time they change. Add in degree major changes and American students waste $19 billion every year on credits that won’t transfer.
4. Classes Not Available Every Semester
With the overloaded college advisors, they may not catch every change in the course catalog that affects your student. The impact? The prerequisite your teen needs for the next term may not be offered when they need it. That forces your teen to either waste their time or risk earning unnecessary credits.
Defense: Change colleges or find the same class that works from a different school and transfer it back.
5. Lighter Course Loads and Part-Time Status
To graduate in four years, students usually need to take 15 credits every semester for eight semesters. Going part-time can be appealing to the busy student, but part-time students rarely finish on time. Making a decision to take one less class in a term suddenly adds time to the end of a degree. This is often overlooked in the confusion of registration day.
Defense: Be committed to finishing what you start. Plan on fifteen credits per semester to finish in four years. Or, find a flexible college option that lets you earn credit when most colleges are not in session.
By researching ways for your child to finish college in less time, you’ll be giving them the best graduation present possible—a year of their life back.