Promoting Timely Degree Completion

Reconciling student choice and the four-year graduation imperative

Explore 16 best practices to strike a better balance between academic exploration and timely degree completion to help more students graduate in four years.

Download the study

Fewer than 40% of students seeking a bachelor's degree actually graduate in four years. While attrition is one of the main causes for this low number, progress delays also keep students from graduating on time. Such delays are increasingly costly to students and to colleges and universities.

This study will help you address both attrition and progress delays. Download the entire publication or explore the table of contents below to learn 16 best practices to shift the graduation focus from six years to four years.



Graduation delays carry big financial implications

In the wake of the Great Recession, financial wellness emerged as an important part of student success. As academic leaders look for ways to help students manage the cost of college and prepare for long-term success, the most obvious and near-term measure is to ensure that they do not pay excess tuition and fees by taking longer than four years to graduate. Any delays can be costly to students and to institutions:

  • State legislatures have realized the savings opportunities from on-time degree completion, and have started to attach performance-based funding to timely graduation. Some states have even moved to make financial aid renewal contingent on degree progress indicators.
  • At the heart of the new focus on financial wellness is the recent and sharp rise in student loan debt. Nearly 40% of graduating loan borrowers carry more than $25,000 in student loans, a large increase from 10 years ago. On-time graduation promotes college affordability because students do not extend their time—and cost—to degree.

Trading exploration for efficiency?

The challenge for institutions is to find ways to reduce time to degree that do not come at the expense of academic exploration and rigor. To do this, it's important to understand the obstacles to on-time graduation, many of which are preventable. These obstacles include financial hardship and preparedness, but also unguided major exploration and program capacity or scheduling constraints.

An approach that balances academic exploration and timely completion would minimize these unintended delays to graduation and maximize opportunities for academic exploration within four years. The 16 best practices in the remainder of this study will help you strike that balance.

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