Magazine article Newsweek

More Kids Major in Going Slow; Why Students All over the Country Are Taking So Long to Graduate from College

Magazine article Newsweek

More Kids Major in Going Slow; Why Students All over the Country Are Taking So Long to Graduate from College

Article excerpt

Byline: Pat Wingert

Travis Quezon is a modern-day Renaissance man. During his seven years in college, most of them at the University of Hawaii, he has studied chemistry and oceanography, art history and sign language. A few years ago, he decided to get focused and major in English--and geography. He can't say exactly when he'll graduate. "Maybe next May," he muses.

It used to be that kids went to college for four years. But a new study, released this spring, shows that most students today take about five years to graduate. The problem is particularly bad at public universities, where, on average, only half the students get out in four years--compared with 80 percent of private-school kids. At the University of Michigan, fully 65 percent graduate on time. But at UCLA, only 42 percent graduate in four years, and less than a third of the students in the Texas university system do. These long-timers have become a nightmare for university administrators, who over the next decade will need to make room for the biggest crop of incoming freshmen since the baby boom.

Many of the slower-moving students insist that they're not being lazy or indecisive--quite the opposite. They'd like to graduate expeditiously, but state budget cuts have made it impossible to take all the courses they need in time. Factor in the slightest change in course, and you're in for the long haul. Anne Keldermans, 23, never considered an economics major until she was forced into an econ course when an accounting class she needed was cut. Now, with a minor in business administration, she hopes to graduate from Illinois State more than five years after she started.

To be competitive in a tough job market, some students say they need two or three degrees. "You have to find a way to give yourself an edge," says Brent Chaney, 21, student president at UT-Austin, whose double major in English and government will take five years. …

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