Monday, January 31, 2011

How Long Does It Take To Graduate from College?

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.


  1. Many people work while going to college and some employers pay students to go to courses on this slower path. It would be interesting to see what else the students were doing - underneath those raw statistics. Working has been a legit path to a college education for a long time. It's probably even more so in this economy & with college costs so high.

  2. Absolutely agree that work is a good and honorable path to college. It would be good to gain a more in-depth look at the experience of working college students. I did work for three out of four years, in campus jobs that were not onerous in time commitments. Back then, I was in a minority even doing this sort of minimal job. The world is indeed different.