yesterday I was on the soccer field with a young man who went off to one of America's top engineering universities after his graduation from a Charlotte Mecklenburg public high school. I asked if he graduated in four years or five. "Six" was his answer. 6 -- six -- twelve semesters -- and this is a bright, responsible, industrious individual (my esteem for him, having known him for eight years or more). Another young man who was with us, and is currently a senior at an area high school, responded, "Yeah, engineering is a five-year degree, I hear."
There's a problem (my opinion) when students enter college with a defined notion that 4 years to a degree is unrealistic. I promise you, the university in question lays out a four year program. Why didn't my friend, therefore, complete his degree in the prescribed four years (eight semesters)?
- Uncertainty as to his major upon entering
- Required classes that filled up and forced his hand to wait until subsequent semesters
- Too many electives
- A decision ahead of time that he would not, could not and, therefore, will not finish in four.
Here's what it cost him:
- Grants-in-aid (aka scholarships) are, at most, offered over four years, and no more.
- Federal Direct Loans are generally maxed out after four years @ $27,000.
- Two years of missed employment. He is working, now, for a good firm and earning better than $50,000 annually. Times two means lost income of more than $100,000;
- plus additional education costs of around $20,000 per year (for the specific university he attended) = $40,000.
- That is a net minus of <$140,000> those extra semesters cost him. And probably more considering that he is likely to receive salary increases and bonuses during his first two years of employment.