There’s no denying the economic and social benefits of tertiary education, but skyrocketing tuition fees are putting financial stress on students and their parents.
In the US for example, the College Board notes that the cost of attending a private four-year college is US$17,010 per year and US$3,360 per year at a public four-year institution in 1988/1989. Conversely, the figure is US$35,830 and US$10,230 respectively in 2018/2019.
While students and parents have no control over the cost of higher education, what they can do to ensure costs don’t spiral out of control is manage how long they spend in university.
A CNBC Make It report notes that graduating in four years or less “can significantly impact the amount a student ends up owing”.
Despite this, not many do.
The National Center for Education Statistics notes that only 41 percent of undergraduates complete their degree within four years while 56 percent received them within five years.
So what can students do to ensure they graduate on time, or earlier? Here are some suggestions:
Avoid changing majors
Your choice of major often reflects your interests and the potential future career path you’re keen on embarking on. While you may not have a clear idea of this at the age of 18, choosing a general field you’d like to go into (e.g. specifying that you’re keen on studying business and not engineering) can help you plan and stay on track towards graduating on time, instead of changing majors midway.
Changing your major may mean the credits from the classes you’ve already completed may not count towards your new major, which doesn’t only delay your graduation but raises the cost of your tuition fees by starting from scratch again.
Go full-throttle with your courses
Students typically take four to five courses each semester. Taking on a lighter workload may be tempting, but you may want to avoid doing this unless you’re struggling academically in university. Otherwise, you’ll take much longer to achieve the 120 credits that are typically needed to graduate from an undergraduate programme.
Consider taking programmes in the summer semester too to speed up the graduation process. After all, that’s a small sacrifice to make in the grand scheme of things. If the annual cost of your degree programme is higher than how much you might make as a fresh graduate hire, it makes more sense to speed up the graduation process so that you can enter the workforce sooner.
Meet with your academic advisor
There are instances where students realise only later in their programme that they need more courses than originally thought. However, some classes are not offered each semester, which acts as a hurdle towards timely graduation.
This makes it essential for students to meet with their academic advisor to ensure they understand and meet all their academic requirements, and stay on track towards graduating on time.