The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony
Print Issues

Four Years Is Enough Time to Graduate

By RuthAnne Frost

Normally, when something takes too long, we get upset. Humans are funny that way. Your mechanic takes a week longer than promised, you have to cool your heels for an hour in a doctor’s waiting room or you get stuck on I-15 for 20 extra minutes. Before you know it, you’re turning green and smashing into Humvees.

And all of those things are completely out of your control. You can’t change the fact that the mechanic ordered the wrong part, that your M.D. took an extra long lunch break or that no one in Utah (except for you) can drive.

But we still get mad.

Yet, it seems like in other areas, we can be strangely apathetic about the amount of time we are using…or wasting.

College is traditionally supposed to take four years to finish. That’s why we still use the terms freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. However, according to the American Council on Education, the average amount of time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree is 5.5 years.

There are some legitimate reasons for students to extend their college experience beyond the traditional four years: accepting internships, studying abroad, completing multiple majors, repeating classes for a better grade and so on. These are experiences that will help students in their future endeavors. There are also reasons such as illness or family issues which are beyond a student’s control.

However, there are an alarming number of fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-year “seniors” who have put off graduation for a plethora of bad reasons.

Van Wilder-types aside, the main reason most students will cite for taking extra time in college is work. Obviously, we should all know by now that graduating from college is more important than making payments on your new car, having the latest hit CD and wearing nothing but designer clothes. So let’s just focus on the students who actually have to work.

When a student has to work to support him or herself, it becomes essential to graduate quickly. Everyone knows that with a college degree comes higher-paying careers. The sooner students can get into one of those careers, the faster they will make more money and pay off any student loans they might have. It’s just that simple.

To graduate from the U, a student needs at least 122 credit hours. This means that even students who must work full-time to support themselves can graduate in the traditional four years by taking 10 or 11 credits per semester-fall, spring and summer.

Students who don’t want to take summer classes can still graduate in four years. By taking 15 hours per semester, plus a few one-credit classes throughout their college careers, students can effectively fill the U’s graduation requirements.

Some might view such heavy prospective schedules with dread. However, in what world was college ever cracked up to be easy? The whole point of college is that it’s hard. That’s why they’ll let us create schedules where we don’t have to wake up until noon.

The fact is, students can usually handle more classes than they’re actually taking, especially those students who aren’t working.

We’ve all known students who ignore the advice given at orientation that 18 credits is just too much-the kid who takes 27 hours while working full-time or the girl who plans her wedding and still manages to pass all of her ten upper-division classes.

Not that you especially want to be those people. By the end of finals week, those are the people who you see collapsed on the bathroom floor in OSH, staring into the distance, trembling from withdrawals. The fact that these people do indeed exist proves that everyone could be working a littler harder.

Furthermore, many of us come to the U with college credits already under our belts. According to a 1997 study by the Utah State Office of Education, Utah ranked first in the nation in both Advanced Placement exams passed and taken per capita. Also, according to this study, more than one-fourth of all high school graduates in Utah enter college with 12 or more hours of credit already earned.

Of course, you shouldn’t spend all four of those years locked in your dorm room, developing carpal tunnel from spending too much time at your computer. College is meant to be a good time. But in the course of having a good time, students shouldn’t forget why they’re here in the first place.

Recently, it’s become harder and harder to find a job. According to economists, the college grads who walked across the stage last month will face the toughest job market in years. In an economy where every little detail on a rsum counts, do U graduates want to be the applicant that took seven years to earn a bachelor’s degree?

According to a 2002 study by the College Board, the percentage of college students at public institutions who earn bachelor’s degrees within five years has been dropping since the late `80s. It is currently at 41.2 percent. However, the percentage of students attending private institutions who earn their degrees within five years has stayed pretty steady at around 55 percent.

The alarming fact of the matter is that all of these graduates are competing for the same jobs.

The next decade is supposed to bring a surge in college enrollment. Due to this fact, the Bush administration has recently encouraged institutions of higher education to put an emphasis on “graduating students in a timely manner.” However, it’s not Bernie Machen’s job to make sure that I graduate in four years. It’s mine.

Students at the U need to take some personal responsibility and satisfaction from completing their degrees in a timely manner. As a friend recently told me, “Of course I’m going to be done in four years. It’s a matter of pride.”

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