The bachelor’s degree is commonly known as the ‘four-year degree’ – but how accurate is that phrase, really?
As today’s college students are discovering, it can be difficult to finish all degree requirements in four years, and delaying graduation can result in unfortunate financial consequences.
The importance of finishing ‘on time’ has led some U.S. colleges to offer a Four-Year Degree Guarantee. Let’s explore this idea by examining graduation statistics and how the four-year guarantee works.
The Real Truth About 4 Year Graduation Rates?
The most recent statistics about graduation rate, collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, are from students who began college in 2009.
Data released in 2017 revealed that the national average four-year graduation rate was only 40 percent. In other words, only 2 out of 5 students who started college in 2009 actually graduated by 2013.
Further, the six-year graduation rate was 59 percent, indicating that 2 out of 5 students from the 2009 cohort still had not graduated by 2015.
The data also show that private colleges outperform public colleges in terms of graduation rate:
- Four-Year Graduation Rate: 35 percent for public universities and 53 percent for private non-profit universities
- Six-Year Graduation Rate: 59 percent for public universities and 65 percent for private non-profit universities
Of course, these are averages, and each individual school has its own graduation rate. However, it’s clear that graduating in four years is not universal, and many students require extra years of study.
The most obvious consequence of not graduating on time is additional tuition and fees, which can add thousands (or even tens-of-thousands) of dollars onto the college degree price tag. In our article about The REAL Total Cost of Graduation, we also point out that this translates to additional student loan interest and lost income.
The Four-Year Degree Guarantee
A few colleges have responded to elongated degree completion trends by offering a four-year guarantee policy. One such institution is Randolph-Macon College (R-MC), which waives tuition costs for courses needed to complete the degree after the fourth year.
To qualify, students must comply with academic requirements such as keeping an acceptable GPA, taking the necessary number of courses, registering on time, and meeting regularly with their academic advisor.
In offering the Four-Year Degree Guarantee, R-MC is partnering with its students and demonstrating that the school and its educators share responsibility for student success. A student who does his or her part but cannot graduate on time does not have to bear additional financial burden to obtain a degree.
The Four-Year Degree Guarantee program at R-MC is so successful that students rarely need to use it. The policy sets students up for success and at Randolph-Macon 95 percent of graduates do so in four years.
Given the difficulty of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in four years, parents and students should begin the college search by researching graduation and completion rates for selected schools, setting realistic expectations about graduation time, and understanding the potential for additional financial burden.
Hard-working students who want to avoid additional expense and longer college careers can consider schools like Randolph-Macon College that show a shared commitment to the learning process.