More and more students in Michigan are taking five or more years to finish college and get their degrees. Ron French from Bridge Magazine has been researching this for his new article, and he talked about the trend today on Stateside. French said nationally, 31% of students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. In Michigan, 12 of the 15 public universities are below that average.
Staying in school longer is more expensive, as extra semesters add cost. French said the fifth and sixth years are usually the most expensive, because financial aid dries up after eight semesters.
“Student debt nationally is over $1 trillion now,” said French.
French said the delayed entrance into the workforce is also expensive, because it can often take another year or two before a student can start paying off their loan debt.
French said one reason for the low graduation rates is a change in the nature of college students. A majority are not full-time students. Some work at least part-time jobs. Some have full-time jobs and are taking a few classes at night, and figure they will get a degree eventually.
French said another reason for graduation delays comes from lackluster academic advising. An example he gives is Central Michigan University, where for every advisor there are 1,200 students.
However, Grand Valley State University is tackling this problem head on. The university pays its students to graduate on time. If a student is on track to graduate in four years by the end of their junior year, the school will reduce tuition by $1,000 for the senior year. The institution also has a very useful online tool that helps students follow their progress and keep them on track to get a degree.
*Listen to the full interview above.