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Debt or delay: the four-year degree that isn’t

Earning a diploma in 4 years is proving to be an elusive goal for many of today’s university students.

For most students, the four-year college degree is just an elusive mirage.

Time posted a great column today about the “the myth of the 4-year college degree.” While the merit of a college education might be up for debate, the alarming statistics about graduating in 4 years are not.

According to Time, the Department of Education calculates that fewer than 40% of students graduate college in four years. At public schools, the rates are even worse — less than a third of students are earning diplomas in the traditional 4-year timeframe.

In the column, a student at the University of Alabama named Chauncey Woodard is quoted, “For me to get my education, I either have to go deep in debt or drag it out like I’m doing now.” Woodard went to UA in spring 2008 after spending some time earning credits in community college. After this “head start” in a community college and four years at the university, Woodard still won’t earn his degree this spring. (He’s hoping to be done next fall.)

The Alabama student demonstrates a sharp awareness of his options: debt or delay. For a lot of students, this will be their choice when pursuing a “4-year” university degree. For others, both debt and delay might hinder their future success.

The most important lesson from these stories and statistics is that we need to change the culture’s mindset that a traditional university degree is always the best option. The truth is that a university degree continues to prove a longer and more costly investment than many realize.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about the positive future of manufacturing in America and the financial benefits of pursuing a career in advanced technology and manufacturing that will help young people make more money, without years of needless education and/or a mountain of debt.

Our hope isn’t that university students will continue to fail to meet their educational goals, but rather we hope that these negative trends in graduation rates reveal to young people considering their options that other, more prosperous paths are available to them. If we can help ambitious young people achieve their life and career goals without saddling them with the burdens that come with today’s university degrees, it’s our responsibility to do so.

photo credit: gadgetdude via photopin cc

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