Six-year degrees become the norm, educational overhaul necessary

While at four-year academic institutions, many students are finding themselves pursuing six-year degrees. Some, even eight-year degrees. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in four years has become a rarity, to the frustration of all involved.

As a student who has taken a minimum of 15 units per semester with a GPA well above the required 2.0, I find it infuriating that I somehow have to study for 12 semesters just to obtain a bachelor’s degree (four at community college, eight at SF State).

Parents and students are worried about the money and time spent in college, and universities don’t seem to mind. So much has changed that SF State now lists their graduation rate as a six-year rate and a whopping 47.3 percent. That means after being enrolled for six years, not even half of the student population graduates. For those who don’t graduate in six years, only 6.5 percent continue pursuing their degree, according to SF State.

SF State is not the only school experiencing low graduation rates, as most public universities are struggling to push out graduates in a timely fashion. According to Inside Higher Ed, the top public universities have a six-year graduation rate of 55.5 percent. Long-term degrees are becoming so normal that the National Center for Education Statistics’ “College Navigator” site has even included an eight-year graduation rate (which is still only at 55 percent for SF State).

According to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, long-term degrees are most likely a result from lack of collegiate resources and/or increased hours of employment among students.

Schools keep pushing for students to graduate by giving unit caps and threatening to boot those who are too far over the “maximum allowed.” However, many times, necessary classes are unavailable and students are stuck sucking up units in fields that don’t apply to them just to be enrolled full time. And if there is a class available, there’s no guarantee that it won’t overlap with other courses or work hours. Students are working much more to help pay for their six-year degrees, rather than the planned four years.

While there are definitely students who just waste time in college and freeload off their parents, most seem to be giving their full effort and are still struggling with how to get all of their classes completed in a timely fashion.

Somehow, Europe has made a three-year degree the standard and the U.S. school system is struggling to keep up. While some private institutions have introduced the program, public schools are still floundering from the lack of classes and surplus of students.

So why do we still even refer to these colleges as four-year institutions? It would be far less deceitful if public universities were referred to as six-year institutions if they are relying on data for six-year graduation rates. And if obtaining a bachelor’s degree is taking longer across the nation, wouldn’t it be smart to lower semester rates?

We need an educational overhaul and we need it now. While I’d like to believe that I will see some change while I’m still in school, it’s highly unlikely… even if I wind up having to pursue an eight-year degree.