affordability november

Just how long should it take to earn a four-year degree? Traditionally, four years has always been the standard --- that’s why we call it a four-year degree. It’s easy to assume that’s how long it will take you to graduate at the college of your choice. After all, you only spend one year in 11th grade and no matter how much you enjoy it, you probably don’t expect to be a senior for more than a year. Why should college be any different?

So how long does a four-year degree take? The answer may surprise you. Among recent public university graduates, the normal rate for students to complete a degree is five to six years. According to public data, it's not unusual to find only approximately one-quarter of all full-time students finish a degree in four years. In fact, the NCAA and most other official statistics now refer to six-year graduation rates.

What happened to the four-year degree? Here are three commonly cited explanations:

  1. Course availability - Despite large lecture auditoriums, class sections in most of the popular majors are often limited. Students simply can’t always get the courses they need, when they need them.
  2. Faculty-student interaction and academic advisement - With TA’s (graduate student teaching assistants) carrying much of the teaching and advising load, it’s difficult to get the support, advice and mentoring needed to stay on track.
  3. Campus community - Institutions with the highest graduation rates have student bodies where most students come with a sense of purpose that says: “I’m here to get an education and prepare for my future.” Those common priorities set the agenda for students and faculty alike.

What does all this mean for you? It’s not about paying an extra year or two of tuition, although that can add up. It’s really about completing your degree on time and allowing you to start your career sooner. With entry-level salaries in many fields now exceeding $35,000, those extra years of earnings quickly make up for the differences in tuition. You and your time are valuable. When you consider the cost of your education, it’s not just about tuition, it’s about how soon you’ll be in the career of your choice. For every university you consider, ask about graduation rates and insist on specific information about the percentage of students who graduate in four years.

And since you’re looking at QU, we’re not going to hesitate to give you our answer! Of the students who start as freshmen and go on to graduate from QU, nearly 80 percent do so in four years or less, and that includes our Division II athletes who often choose to compete in their fifth year. You won’t find TA’s here; you will find knowledgeable faculty and staff to help you sort through everything from course selection to career planning. You’ll find smaller classes and more importantly, we’ll get you into those courses in the right sequence so you can avoid the frustration of being left on a semester-long waiting list. You’ll find a community of students who know how to balance their academic and social life so they can graduate in four years. If graduating in four years is one of your expectations, QU can deliver.

Economists who study higher education generally agree that the length of time you spend getting a degree has more to do with the cost of your education than the tuition you pay. Our advice: gather the facts, consider your preferences, and understand that a private university with a higher tuition may be your least expensive option.