Campus / News / February 13, 2013

More students choosing to graduate in less than four years

With the cost of college on the rise, an increasing number of Knox students are graduating in just three years. But considerations aside from finances seem to be driving this trend as well.

At Knox, 5.3 percent of students who graduated in 2009 did so after only three years at Knox, compared to 2.6 percent in 2007. Knox’s current four-year graduation rate is 70 percent, which is on par with other schools in the Associated College of the Midwest consortium, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

The desire to graduate in three years is not confined to Knox. In response to this nationwide trend, a growing number of colleges have instituted three-year degree programs, including Wesleyan University, Hartwick College and Franklin & Marshall College. The University of California-Los Angeles is also considering developing a three-year degree option.

It is not currently clear if there are trends at Knox with respect to why students choose to graduate early, although Associate Dean Lori Haslem believes that financial concerns are a major piece of the puzzle.

“We’re trying to figure out how to keep better tabs … in order to plan enrollment numbers,” Haslem said.

For senior Alex Uzarowicz, graduating early means saving a year’s worth of tuition and having more time to prepare for law school. He plans to use the extra year to pursue an internship to give himself a leg up in the law school admissions process.

“Law schools want you to gain some real-world experience before committing yourself to three to five years [of school],” Uzarowicz said. “I think it’s very beneficial.”

Uzarowicz’s original plan was to stay at Knox for a full four years. During the fall of what would have been his junior year, however, he found that he had enough credits to graduate in three, thanks to Advanced Placement courses and community college transfer work.

On the other hand, senior Minah Rathore knew when she first came to Knox that she would graduate in three years.

“Four years is good if you’re not sure what you want to do,” she said. “But for me, I always knew I wanted to go for IR [international relations].”

Financial concerns also played into Rathore’s decision, as her parents were paying for her and her sister, Yumna Rathore ’12, to attend Knox, and the overlap put strain on her family’s finances. However, saving money now may have adverse effects on Minah’s future financial security.

“The economy is really bad right now and is projected to get back up on its feet in 2015 or 2016,” she said. “I think it would’ve been a good idea to finish undergrad in four years and then go to grad school for two years, and after that, the economy would’ve been back up.”

Still, Minah, who will be graduating at the age of 20, feels that staying an extra year would be redundant, as she has grown as much as she can in an undergraduate environment.

“Knox has prepared me, but it’s done so in three years,” she said. “I’ve always been the youngest in my class … I think I’ll be fine.”

For senior Abesh Aziz, graduating before the rest of his class is bittersweet. Most of Minah’s close friends are either current seniors in their fourth year at Knox or students who are graduating early, which strongly influenced her decision. While this is true for some of Aziz’s friends, he said he will miss graduating with the class with which he entered Knox.

“I don’t really put much stock into the whole graduation pomp and circumstance, but … it’s kind of sad, in a way,” he said.

As a first-generation college student, Aziz said coming to Knox knowing he would graduate in three years forced him to figure out what he wanted to do much quicker. He did not realize, for example, that he would need to take the LSAT earlier than other students in order to enter law school directly after graduation.

Despite describing himself as “not a school person,” Aziz said if it were financially viable for his family, he might reconsider his decision.

“If I went to another school, I would definitely have just wanted to dip out,” he said. “If I could, I actually would probably prefer to have four years here.”

Anna Meier

Tags:  college costs early graduation

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