Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Graduating in four years is no longer the “norm”

Only 38 percent of full-time students who began pursuing a bachelor’s degree at The University of Alabama in the fall of 2004 completed their degree in four years, according to the United States Department of Education Institute of Education Statistics.

Another 67 percent completed their degree in six years. The percentages are based on completion within 150 percent of “normal time.”

At UA, students are assigned advisers to assist and guide them with organizing their schedules each semester. They are also offered course suggestion packets within their colleges and have access to a program called DegreeWorks that allows students to personalize their four-year plans according to their specific catalogue, minor, major and completed courses.

So, why is it that after four years, only 38 percent of the incoming class of 2004 was able to earn a degree? One student believes that it originates from the student work ethic and specific circumstances.

“Obviously, if you don’t study and don’t go to class, you aren’t going to pass,” said Alison Landry, a senior majoring in criminal justice and psychology. “If you don’t pass your classes, you are going to have to take them again, and at some point you are going to get behind. Of course, there are times where classes are too full, and other circumstances can be taken into account. But no one ever said college was going to be easy.”

Landry went on to explain how the University has supplied her the necessary tools to stay on course to graduate in three and a half years.

“I love DegreeWorks,” Landry said. “It was really helpful for me to make sure that I was going to be able to graduate when I wanted to. The only issue I ever had was that DegreeWorks doesn’t recognize certain aspects of New College and, therefore, said I am not ready to graduate, even though I am.”

Mike Duffy, a senior majoring in business, said he transferred to UA with 40 credit hours. And even though he had completed those hours, they would be almost useless in pursuing his degree at UA.

“Almost all of those hours only counted as elective hours, so I pretty much had to start college over after transferring,” he said. “I have had to take 12-15 hours each semester, which is a big change from my previous college, which only required 9-12 hours.”

Duffy explained that although starting from scratch was a setback, he was provided with plenty of help to keep his next four years in order.

“I’m in the business school,” Duffy said. “My regular adviser has been great each semester at designing my schedule and recommending classes. There have been several instances in which he added me to a class that was already full so I wouldn’t fall behind. Overall, my experience with the advisers in the business school has been excellent.”

Some colleges within the University, such as the College of Education, go so far as to reserve seats in classes for upperclassmen so they do not have to worry about not getting into the classes they need to stay on schedule.

“In my three years, I have really experienced a great relationship with the faculty,” said Tori Klamberg, a senior majoring in elementary education. “Teachers and advisers are very helpful. They really try to help you graduate in four years. However, once you are a sophomore in the college, they block off your classes so you take them by section. Each person has a place reserved, so you never have to worry about getting in.”

Even with all of the positive reinforcements provided by UA, as well as many other colleges across the country, one study still finds that graduation rates nationwide are not always steady.

According to a project of the American Enterprise Institute in June 2009, Diplomas and Dropouts, there is a dramatic range of graduation rates in the higher education system throughout the United States. The study reports on over 1,300 various schools and their full-time six-year graduation rate, also know as a SRK graduation rate.

The study explains that overall, fewer than 60 percent of students who attend and graduate from four-year colleges do so within six years. Specifically, they report that The University of Alabama had a 65 percent SRK graduation rate, while the state average was a drastic 42.9 percent.

Looking around the Southeastern Conference, the study reported University of Arkansas with a 58 percent SRK graduation rate, University of Florida with an 81 percent SRK graduation rate, University of Georgia with a 77 percent SRK graduation rate and Louisiana State University with a 60 percent SRK graduation rate.

Although the study reports on the various SRK graduation rates, they do not make any suggestions as to whether the rates are good or bad. This is because they cannot speak to how difficult it is to obtain a diploma at each institution based on difficulty or demand. However, the report does make an argument against low graduation rates.

“In general, however, we would argue that low graduation rates are an important indicator that a given school may not be serving the needs of its degree-seeking students,” said the study. “When schools that admit similar students have vastly different graduations rates, consumers should wonder what this implies about institutional practices and quality.”

“When compared to their high-performing peer institutions, it is difficult to argue that the schools in the bottom end of the graduation rate distribution are doing enough to help their students successfully complete a degree.”

The study says that students still have responsibilities and should be held accountable for their schoolwork and completing their degree. They also take into account that some students cannot complete their degree for financial as well as personal circumstances.

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