To the dismay of tuition payers everywhere, the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree is more commonly becoming a five-year degree as students take longer to complete their education.
The cause of the extension of time spent in school is a mix of students working while in college, overcrowding at state universities, and the desire to obtain multiple degrees.
According to the California State University system, only 16 percent of all CSU freshmen who started in 2005 were able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years.
Of that same group, 40 percent were able to complete their degree within five years.
“It’s not realistic at all to finish in four years,” said Chelsea Wright, a communications major from CSU Fullerton.
“I had a hard time getting classes and I couldn’t get some of my lower level classes until my very last semester.”
Wright began her degree in fall 2005 and completed it in four-and-a-half years, but did face the difficulties of overcrowding and having to work part-time.
“The only people I know that finished in four years didn’t have a job and lived on campus,” Wright said.
Four-year graduation rates at the University of La Verne are significantly higher than schools in the CSU system, with 51 percent of graduates earning a bachelor’s degree in four years and 65 percent earning it within five years.
However, according to an informal survey of 20 La Verne students, it takes an average of 4.3 years to earn a bachelor’s degree, which is slightly longer than the traditional time it should take to complete the degree.
Troubles with academic counseling also seem to plague the California State University schools.
Amanda Bard spent six years working on her bachelor’s degree in arts and technology at CSU San Marcos because she was unable to find the help that she needed at the beginning.
“At first the counselors weren’t helpful,” Bard said. “Then I went back and complained that I wasn’t happy with my classes and then they suggested that I switch majors and I was much happier.”
“I would get help setting up my schedule but I didn’t really get help deciding if my major was the right one for me,” Wright said.
Junior business major Christian Uriarte is on track to earn his degree in exactly four years and has found that his advisers at La Verne provide exactly the assistance he needs to succeed.
“The counselors here are way better than any counselor I’ve had before,” Uriarte said.
“They actually listen to what you want to do and they try their best to help get you out of school in four years.”
Adults who are returning to school to complete their degree, or earn a higher degree, have found a home at the University of La Verne.
After several years as a freelance photojournalist, La Verne junior Frank Perez decided to return to school because of the job opportunities that will come with having a higher degree.
“If the newspaper business falls out, I need to find another line of work,” Perez said. “I need a new trick to put in my bag.”
Perez spent three years earning associate of arts degrees in photography and language arts from Citrus College.
He will require another year and a half to get his bachelor’s degree in photo marketing, bringing his total time to earn his degree to four and a half years.
Perez also plans on continuing his education through graduate school so he can be certified to teach photography at the collegiate level.
While students at the University of La Verne have not suffered from severe overcrowding issues like those in the CSU system, students across the board are taking longer than usual to accomplish their goals of higher education.
Allison Lavelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.