Four-year degree no longer the norm

Northern Kentucky University’s Spring 2003 Semester Enrollment Summary for NKU shows a steady increase in enrollment since 1999. Although more students are attracted to NKU each year, the increase in enrollment may also be attributed to the number of students returning because they did not graduate when expected.

David Emery, director of the academic advising resource center, named several reasons a student could graduate later than planned.

“Some students are not coming to take college-level courses; they may have to start with remedial classes,” he said.

Remedial classes may not always count towards credit hours but are prerequisites for general studies courses such as math, English, and writing.

Emery also cited financial reasons why a student may take longer than four years to graduate. He said sometimes a student’s enrollment is “contingent on money.” If a student cannot afford to attend consecutive semesters, he or she would take longer than four years to graduate.

The most common reason for postponed graduation is a frequent change of major among students.

“About 50 percent or higher of students change their major at least once,” Emery said.

Sarah Caston, freshman and psychology major, is taking 15 credit hours this semester but said she probably will not stick with her current major.

“I just didn’t want to go into Transitions without a major,” she said.

Another reason a student may not graduate in four years is that many students are unaware of their graduation requirements.

“Typically, incoming freshmen don’t know what the graduation requirements are,” Emery said. “But once students declare a major and start looking at their degree audit they become more aware of their requirements.”

Not all students will be faced with postponed graduation due to incomplete requirements, however. Emery said a student that takes 16 hours per semester of college-level courses should meet the required 128 semester hours in four years.

There is more to graduation requirements than just completing a minimum of 128 semester hours, however. Students have to consider many academic requirements, such as hours taken on campus, general studies requirements, major requirements, an area of concentration (or minor), grade point average, and completed hours of 300 level courses or above.

Advisers have several suggestions for students to keep track of their graduation requirements. First, every student should read through the course catalog. Next, students should take a variety of general requirement and major core classes each semester so they do not get bored with one subject. Varying classes also prevents students from finishing all of their general requirements within their first two years and be stuck with all major courses. Some major courses have prerequisites that prevent students from taking the course.

Students should also consult with their advisers often in order to ensure they meet all requirements. Another useful tool is the Degree Audit feature on Norse Express; this provides a detailed list of courses the student has completed, the grade received for each course, courses the student is currently registered for and classes the student needs to complete to meet the general course requirements and his or her major course requirements.