Lagging Behind In The Race To Graduate

Gianfranco Illiano

As children grow up, their parents
and teachers tell them to go
to school for 13 years, earn a high
school degree, then go to college
for four years and graduate. After
all, the faster students graduate,
the less they spend, typically, on a
college education.
The problem, graduating in
college in four years is hard to do,
especially for students coming
out of community colleges who
transfer to four-year colleges or
The reasons for this vary. Kevin
Koerner, student at Bucks and
Yardley resident, entered Bucks
as an exercise science major as a
freshman in 2015, but a year and
a half into it, he decided to change
his major to sports management.
While he was able to use some
of his exercise science credits as
sports management credits, he
was unable to replace exercise
science classes with sports management
classes. Due to his new,
required courses, Koerner can’t
transfer to a four-year university
until 2018.
“I had to spend more money to
pursue my new major, but I don’t
mind it that much. I’ll definitely
not graduate in four years or be
able to transfer later this summer,
but at least I’m able to transfer
after three years at Bucks instead
of four or five years like some
kids I know.”
To not get too far behind,
Koerner said he’s taking classes
in the summer to obtain more
credits. “I’m taking two summer
classes at Bucks so I don’t have
to take any extra classes next fall
or spring, I’m trying to get out of
here as soon as possible.”
For students who changed their
majors, it might be best to take
some classes in the summer so
that more credits are counted for
when it comes time to transferring
to a four-year university.
Then there are students like Michael
DeMarco, of Fairless Hills,
who went to Bucks for three years
and then transferred to Temple
University. “I was told before I
admitted to Bucks that I would
finish my time there within two
years but it took longer because
my advisor didn’t do her job.” He
claims that his advisors said he
would be at Temple University
by his junior year of college but it
turns out, DeMarco had to stay at
Bucks for three years to earn his
associates degree. DeMarco says
his advisor assigned him classes
that weren’t designated for his
major and as a result, he didn’t
have enough credits that were
transferrable to Temple.
“I was really pissed off when
I found out that I had to stay at
Bucks for another year, I missed
out on a lot of things, a lot of
opportunities, and the worst of all,
I spent a lot more money!” said
The new reality is that a vast
majority of students don’t end
up graduating in the traditional
four-year window. Most college
students at public universities end
up completing their bachelor’s
degree in six years, according
to a study by Complete College
Complete College America
is a non-profit organization that
works with states to help close
the college degree attainment gap,
making it easier and more cost
effective for students to pursue
higher education.
In their November 2014 report,
the group tackled the four-year
graduation myth, stating most
students at public universities
don’t graduate on time, according
According to the study, for a
non-flagship public university,
only 19 percent of students graduate
on time and even at flagship
research public universities, the
on-time graduation rate is only 36
percent. Only 50 of the more than
580 public four-year institutions
have graduation rates above 50
Another downside for not graduating
in four years is that students
are paying more money the
longer they stay in school—a lot
more money! According to 2013
data from the University of Texas
at Austin, students who graduate
on time will spend 40 percent less
than those who graduate in six
There are a lot of reasons why
students don’t graduate in four
years, however, there are four
main reasons why students tend
to take longer to complete their
One of the reasons why students
take longer to graduate is the
lack of a clear plan or advising.
According to Dr. Bob Neuman, a
former associate dean of academic
advising at Marquette University,
when students enter into college
freshman year, they often take a
relaxed approach to college.
Dr. Neuman told USA TODAY,
“Students aren’t sure what’s sure
what’s going to happen to them
once they start college. They
aren’t thinking about how college
should connect them with a career
when they get out of college.”
Students should take full advantage
of advising. It doesn’t matter
if the student’s grades are high
or low. It’s always helpful to talk
to somebody who’s apart of the
According to the National
Center for Education Statistics,
approximately 80 percent of students
change their majors before
they graduate. And depending on
when you change your major, it
can delay your expected graduation
For students who changed their
majors, it might be best to take
some classes in the summer so
that more credits are counted for
when it comes time to transferring
to a four-year university.
Another reason why students
seem to graduate longer than
expected is because of transferring.
The National Clearinghouse
Research Center reports 37
percent of college students end up
transferring during their college
career. Unfortunately, credits for
completed courses don’t always
transfer to the new school.
Wayne Watro, a student at
Bucks, from Yardley, will be
transferring to La Salle next fall
but he says that a lot of his credits
aren’t being transferred to his new
school. “I’m going to La Salle
next year but a lot of the credits
that I took at Bucks aren’t going
to work at my new school,” Watro
says. “I’m basically taking some
of the same courses next year at
La Salle and that’s really annoying,”
he added.
Many students at Bucks believe
that a lot of universities tend to
not take as many credits as some
advertise. A lot of students get
“screwed over” when transferring
credits and a lot of it has to do
with the money some believe.
Patrick Lawrence, a student at
Bucks, of Newtown, says that
universities don’t take a lot of the
courses that Bucks students obtain
from the community college is
because of money. “I’m transferring
to West Chester and they’re
not taking a lot of the credits that
I got at Bucks for some stupid
reason. I think it all has to do with
the money. Some schools just
try to make the most money they
can from their students and that’s
really messed up.”
Another reason why students
take a while to graduate is because
some of the courses that
students sign up for aren’t necessary
to take.
Many students take additional
credits that they don’t need to
graduate. On average, a bachelor
degree program requires 120 credits,
while most students up taking
an average of 134 credits to obtain
their bachelor’s degree, according
to Complete College America’s
report. It’s common that students
don’t realize that taking additional
credits might now be helpful to
them in the long run.