Students struggle to graduate within four years

News Editor Kaitlyn Davis

The majority of college students in the U.S. do not graduate on time, and UNA’s students are no exception.

Out of the 2011 freshmen cohort, 20.3 percent graduated within four years, according to UNA’s graduation and retention rates.

This is an improvement from the 11.7 percent of the 2009 freshmen cohort who graduated in the period of four years, according to the rates.

It is also over the national average of 19 percent of students who graduate on time, according to

There are many causes for delayed graduation, including financial struggles, changing majors, caring for families and not taking 15 hours per semester, said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost John Thornell in an email.

Twelve credit hours qualifies as full time. Director of University Advising Services Amy Crews encourages freshmen students to take 12 hours their first semester, she said in an email.

However, if students take 12 credit hours every semester, they will not graduate within four years unless they take summer classes.

“The reason I suggest 12-14 hours (a student’s) first semester is that the transition from high school to college is a huge one for most students, and the preparation they get in high school is simply not adequate for the rigors of college,” Crews said.

This advice only applies to a freshman’s first semester and not for future semesters, Thornell said.

A student needs to take 30 credit hours every year to graduate on time, Crews said.

Even then, students do not always finish within four years.

“Most semesters I took 15-18 credit hours and still had to take two summer courses and stay an extra semester for my internship,” said 2015 alumna Jennifer Thomas.

Crews stresses the importance of meeting with an adviser frequently and developing a four-year plan to ensure a timely graduation.

Although students should meet regularly with an adviser, they should also take precautions when listening to their advice, Thomas said.

“Sit down with an advisor and map out the best possible way for you to take your required classes, and get it in writing with a signature so you don’t go back later to find a mysterious class has been added to your requirement list, speaking from experience,” she said.

To graduate within four years, Thornell encourages students to avoid dropping courses and changing majors unless it is absolutely necessary.

Changing his major, holding down a job and retaking classes caused 2013 alumnus Seth Bullock to not graduate on time, he said.

But this setback turned out to be an advantage for Bullock, he said.

“(Graduating late was) kind of a good thing too because my wife was in one of the classes I had to retake,” Bullock said.

The four-year graduation norm might need to change because students should not rush choosing a lifelong career path, Thomas said. It is also difficult to choose and master a career when universities require students to complete general studies for the first two years, she said.

“You don’t even get to your actual major until the second half of college, so really a student is expected to master their skill or major in two years,” she said.

Students should enjoy their time in college because before they know it, college will be over, Bullock said.

“You’ll start your first day in college, and you’ll blink,” he said. “Then, you’re shaking hands with (President Kenneth Kitts) at graduation.”