Encourage your kids to go to college – and graduate on time


With the school year winding down, many high school students are anxious to start college in the fall.

Too bad many won’t be in a hurry to finish college.

These days, the traditional four-year education has morphed into five years, six years – or even more.

For many college students, there’s no urgency to finish their bachelor’s degree and enter the work world.

“The issue of timely graduation is as serious as any other in high education,” University of Texas president Bill Powers wrote recently in The Dallas Morning News. “For students’ own good, we must be bolder in pushing them out of the nest.”

When I attended college in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, every student I knew intended to graduate in four years. And most, including myself, did.

Now, a four-year schedule seems too onerous to many college students.

At the University of Texas, only half of students graduate in four years, Power writes. Around the United States, the four-year graduation rate at public universities ranges from a high of 84 percent to a low of 3 percent, he says.

Why do students take so long to graduate?

I’m stunned by those numbers. What are these lackadaisical students thinking? That college is an endless refuge from the real world?

The puny graduation rates suggest that the laggards aren’t paying for their own education. If they were, they’d have some urgency about finishing their education and ending the tuition payments.

Why do so many parents pay for a child’s college education when it seems never-ending? I suppose this is the reasoning: If we cut off tuition, Junior won’t finish his degree. Then he’ll have limited job opportunities and likely earn less money. And he might move back home and be financially dependent on the family for years.

I say parents need to toughen up and clearly state their expectations before their child enters college. If they’re footing the bill, they should tell their son or daughter that they must graduate in four years. Otherwise, the money from home will stop.

Listen, graduating from college in four years isn’t difficult if a student buckles down. Sure, some students might change majors, extending their time in college. And some students might have to work, limiting the number of classes they can take per semester.

Still, parents can insist that their child attend summer school to stay on pace to graduate in four years. Students get a sense of accomplishment when they graduate on time. And employers take notice.

“Your student needs to want to finish in four years,” according to an article on CollegeParents.org. “Your student needs to keep his ‘eyes on the prize’ and be clear about his goals and his action plans to reach those goals.”

The University of Texas has created a plan to increase the four-year graduation rate. Some of the initiatives:

  • A greater emphasis on timely graduation at freshmen orientation.
  • An online tool to track academic progress.
  • A warning system to identify students whose grades put them at risk of landing on academic probation.

Every university needs a similar emphasis on boosting the four-year graduation rate. Students need to learn to finish an ambitious task, such as graduating from time. Once young adults land a job, employers won’t be understanding if they can’t meet deadlines.

Be happy if your son or daughter is motivated to attend college and get a degree. But don’t hesitate to push them toward graduation.


We need to make a four-year college graduation the norm again. Students who want an advanced degree will certainly need to attend longer. But for a bachelor’s degree, there are few excuses to take longer than four years.

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