More college undergrads take longer than four years to graduate

Roughly 20 percent of TCU students take longer than four years to complete an undergraduate degree, a university researcher said.

Dr. Cathy Colghan, TCU's director of Institutional Research, said it takes a student between four and five years, on average, to graduate.

U.S. News and World Report recently published the university’s six-year graduation rate at 74 percent for 2011. However, this number can be deceiving because it includes all students who have graduated in six years or less.

According to the 2010 TCU Fact Book, about 54 percent of TCU students graduated on time in 2008, roughly 18 percent took between four and five years. Nearly two percent took between five and six years, totaling a six-year graduation rate of 74 percent.

While the six-year graduation rates at TCU have increased from 68 percent to 74 percent between 2004 and 2010, the four-year graduation rates have also increased from 45 percent to 55 percent. Many different factors including the steady rise in the number of people attending TCU over recent years can contribute to these increases, according to the book.

Albert Parent, an alumnus who graduated in August 2012 with a degree in geology, said he took a little over five years to earn his undergrad. He said he had to retake some courses and encountered sub-par advising.

“Part of it was because I didn’t do so well in some classes and had to retake them and wait a whole year because they were semester-specific,” Parent said.

However, Parent is not alone. According to the 2008 TCU Graduating Senior Survey, about 28 percent of those who graduated needed more than four years to complete their degree. The major reasons for delayed graduation noted in the survey were the student switched majors, retook courses, were misadvised, were seeking a double major, withdrew during one or more semesters, took a reduced course load or did not receive full credit for transferred hours.

This trend in taking longer to complete an undergraduate degree has been increasing across America, according to a New York Times article, “The Rise of the Five-Year Four-Year Degree.”

Even among graduates who attend college full-time with 12 or more hours per semester, 45 percent need an extra year or more in order to graduate, according to the article. There has also been a substantial decline nationally over the past 30 years in on-time degree completion.

While some believe taking longer to graduate is better than not graduating at all, stretching out a four-year degree can have drawbacks, according to the article. Students accumulate extra years of tuition costs and lose additional years of experience and financial earnings in the work force. Parent said the only negative he has encountered from graduating late is the accumulation of his student loans.

However, private universities across the nation, on average, have a higher graduation rate compared to state universities, according to a Boston Globe Sunday Magazine article, “The Four-Year College Myth.” U.S. News and World Report stated that both Texas Tech Universityand U.T.-Dallas have a six-year graduation rate of 61 percent and SMU has a rate of 75 percent, compared to TCU’s 74 percent.

The six-year graduation rates of other private universities in Texas are as follows: SMU at 75 percent, Baylor at 72 percent and Rice at 92 percent.

The Provost and the TCU Admissions office were unavailable for comment on the numbers.