Area students taking longer to get degrees, officials say

September 20, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

HAGERSTOWN - Here's a quick math question: How long, on average, does it take a traditional student at Frostburg State University to get a four-year degree?

Answer: 4.6 years.

No, that is not a typo or some fluke - that is the real answer, Steve Simpson, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Frostburg, said in a phone interview earlier this month.

In fact, 4.6 years also is the national average for students getting four-year degrees, Simpson said.

For at least 15 years, the statistical trend has been for some students to take more than four years to get their four-year degrees, Simpson said.


There are several reasons why some students take more than four years to get through college, he said, including:

· Switching majors or taking more than one major.

· Repeating classes.

· Students who work while attending college sometimes have to take a lighter class load.

For some students, it simply is a matter of personal preference, while some students can handle more classes than others, he said.

Many of the same factors are true for students at Hagerstown Community College, said President Guy Altieri.

An additional factor is the rising cost of tuition, he said.

Some students enter the community college without the appropriate high school preparation, he said. As a result, those students must take additional classes, he said.

For full-time students who entered Hagerstown Community College in 2000, the average time it took them to get a two-year degree was 2.5 years, college spokeswoman Beth Stull said.

Simpson said Frostburg has taken a step that may lower the average college length for some students: The university has started offering online courses during summer and intercession, the break between semesters, he said.

The online classes will particularly help students who don't take courses during the summer and those who do not live in the area, Simpson said.

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