Super Senior

Super seniors have become a growing problem nationwide.

Super seniors have become a growing problem nationwide.

The goal of college-bound students is to identify their major, take their classes and graduate in four years. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, that four-year plan is becoming harder and harder to achieve with some taking five or more years to graduate. These students are being called “super seniors,” students who are in their fifth year or later and have more than the usual number of credits required to graduate, but for whatever reason haven’t achieved a diploma or bachelor’s degree.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 42% of first-time bachelor’s degree seeking students do not graduate before the four-year mark. Super seniors have become a growing problem nationwide and some college administrators are saying enough is enough by taking action against super seniors.

Last year, administrators at the nation’s largest four-year college, California State University, said the 23-campus system could no longer afford to let students linger so long without collecting their diplomas. Deep budget cuts over the past four years have forced CSU to sharply raise tuition, cut academic programs and turn away tens of thousands of qualified students. They planned to combat the super senior problem by charging them hefty fees. Those fees could have triple the costs for students who have completed five years of full-time undergraduate work.

The proposed “graduation incentive fee” was designed to encourage students to finish their degrees faster, making room for new undergrads and elevating the super senior problem. However, CSU trustees shelved the proposal last November indicating they needed more time to gather input on the potential affects the fee increase would have on students.

What about other options? Enter the four-year guarantee, a written, contractual agreement that guarantees a student will graduate in four years, provided the student maintains acceptable academic progress by taking the suggested course load and passing all courses. And if not, the college foots the bill beyond the fourth year.

Transylvania University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, KY, that is offering this incentive to new students. They are requiring students to meet four criteria as part of the pledge: remain enrolled for eight consecutive terms, take a full course load each term, meet the university’s required academic progress goals and declare a major by the end of their sophomore year.

For Transylvania University, the four-year guarantee has produced positive results among prospective students. According to Transylvania’s vice president of enrollment, Brad Goan, in a survey done by the school last year, 60% of students said the university’s pledge was a factor in their final decision.

Do you think a four-year guarantee like the one at Transylvania University is the type of system California needs to curb super seniors? How do you think California should deal with super seniors? Let us know your thoughts!

Westface College Planning can help you navigate the college saving and funding process from start to finish. To learn how we can help you call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Monica’s Dad

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