In New Jersey, it takes a long time.
The chances of getting out of college in four years is 50/50. At schools like Montclair State, Kean University and William Paterson, not even a third of the students gain their bachelors' degrees in four years.
That's part of the findings of a Star-Ledger analysis of graduation rates from 27 schools in the state.
These are scary statistics, especially since some students seem to be fighting a vicious economic circle. Sometimes it is because the students are working long hours to pay for their education, causing them to spread out classes. In other cases, the schools, due to cutbacks, offer fewer courses and it takes longer for students to get the requisite courses for their majors. Or it costs them more as they try to take needed classes in the summer or over winter break.
The economic side of this story is reinforced by specific numbers: 90 percent of Princeton undergrads graduate in four years, Rutgers comes in at 49 percent and at New Jersey City University, in Jersey City, only six percent of freshmen graduate four years later.
And these are 2008 figures. The numbers are probably getting worse -- though some students may have had greater economic incentive to have finished on time because there was simply no money to prolong the undergraduate experience.
I wonder, in a highly competitive job market, if an employer might not prefer a student who finished in four years rather than someone who took five or six. Unfairly or not, the undergrad who took longer may look less ambitious, more like a dawdler.
What do other states' graduation rates look like? I don't know, but here in the Garden State, our college kids are not flourishing.