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Colleges Promise: Four Years or Free

The average college student takes nearly five and a half years to graduate.

Elizabeth Hoyt

March 11, 2013

Colleges Promise: Four Years or Free
With college expenses piling up and the financial crisis looming over the nation, colleges are now doing more than ever to recruit students to their schools. One such method that’s become increasingly popular is the guarantee of the four-year degree, with the promise that additional tuition will be free after four years. These programs are popular among prospective college students, especially since the average college student takes nearly five and half years to graduate.

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Are these programs based in generosity or marketing strategies? It usually depends on whether or not the school has measures in place to help ensure students can actually meet four-year graduation requirements. Many programs also have built-in roadblocks and stipulations that make it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to benefit from the incentive program. Whether or not the programs actually help students graduate within the allotted four years varies, but the promises sound enticing enough that they are quite popular with students- enough so that more than 40 colleges offer a variation of the program or incentive.

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In order to determine if a college’s incentive program will work for you, here are some general guidelines to consider: It’s All in the Details -

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Read the agreement beforehand to understand what the college is expecting in order to benefit from their incentive program. Does it seem realistic to accomplish what they are asking within their requirements? Check Admittance Rate to Required Courses - A common cause of not being able to graduate on time is due to not being able to get into the required courses as a result of overcrowding. Choose a college where the students are able to enroll in the necessary courses easily and where availability is not super limited. Choose Proof Over Guarantees - The colleges with programs in place to aid students in their graduation rates are the best choices. It’s best to choose a school that offers enough classes to enable enrollment when necessary and with graduation requirements being 120 hours or less, in order to have a realistic goal of graduating on time. Be Advised - Experts believe that students stay on the right graduation track if their advisors are more involved in their academics. Advisors are able to notify you when you’re off the four-year track, perhaps long before you’re even aware of it. Accepting their can aid you in achieving your ultimate goal. Do a Background Check - What is the college’s four-year graduation rate? You want to research and find a college with a good track record because, odds are, you will become a similar statistic. College Results Online is a great resource to research these types of records. Keep Your Eye on the Prize - While graduating in four years is a great accomplishment, you don’t want to rush through school and miss out on important opportunities like internships, study abroad or exploring different subjects you may be interested in. It can also be very stressful to graduate within four years for certain degrees, so make sure it’s a goal within reason. Sacrificing your health and wellness, not to mention your grades, is definitely not worth a closer graduation date.

What have you experienced with four-year graduation incentive programs?

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