Most students don’t graduate in 4 years, study finds

Most bachelor’s degrees require students to be in school for four years, but for a number of reasons these days, it’s more often about four-and-a-half or five.

According to a 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Education, only 30 percent of ASU students graduate within four years, whereas 56 percent graduate within six years.

David Bradley, a senior in finance and accounting, said he will spend four-and-a-half years getting his bachelor’s degree.

“I’m trying to complete two majors concurrently and not all of the courses cross-satisfy the different requirements, so it will take an extra semester,” he said.

With education costs rising, Bradley was concerned about taking the extra semester, he said.

“Given the current economic environment, taking an extra semester will provide more time for the economy to rebound while I am completing my degrees,” he said.

Ideally this will mean more job opportunities once he graduates, Bradley said.

“A decent amount of people I know are graduating in four years, but the majority takes longer than four years,” he said.

Most of those people either changed majors or took a longer time deciding on a major after the beginning of college, he said.

Duncan Shaeffer, an academic success specialist in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, said most students finish in about four-and-a-half years.

“It depends on your major,” he said. “It takes times to decide exactly what you want to hone in on as a student.”

Accounting senior Wesley Nye is planning to graduate in December, a semester late, because of a change of major.

“The job market is terrible and I don’t know what I would do if I had to get a real job next month,” he said.

Mike Anderson, an accounting graduate student, got his bachelor’s degree in 2009 from the University of Florida in four years.

His parents paid for his undergraduate degree, but Anderson is paying for graduate school himself and plans to graduate next month.

“Anything above my undergrad was on me; my parents wanted me to be more fiscally responsible,” he said.

To keep costs at a minimum, Anderson made sure he would graduate on time, but said he has friends who took longer than four years to graduate.

“It’s about a 50-50 split,” he said. “A lot of my friends in Florida are engineer[ing] majors, it’s easier for people to take longer.”

Changing majors three times during his undergrad program, Anderson said he was lucky to stay on track and earn his degree in four years.

“I went from economics, to finance, to accounting. They all had the same prerequisite courses, so I didn’t lose any credit,” he said.

Bradley said education is a bigger decision today because of how specialized jobs have become.

“Since getting an education has become a bigger commitment of time and resources, people don’t want to rush the decision, which may be why people are taking longer than four years to graduate,” he said.

Reach the reporter at mmbarke1@asu.edu