There is a statistical concept that might be described as partitioning variance. Outcomes are seldom the result of single factors and the goal of accurate description is thus to accurately explain how much of the variability in the outcome can be attributed to which possible cause.
I include this introductory paragraph to encourage a scientific perspective and to discourage those who seldom bother with deep thinking. I am guessing they did not get to this point.
What I want to address is the political position that educational institutions are responsible for increasing the length of time it takes to earn an undergraduate degree. To be clear, I mean delay in a negative way; i.e., it is a bad thing, it is the fault of the institution, it is more expensive that it should be. The negative interpretation is clearly the view taken by many politicians and even by the few institutions that advertise a funding model based on the guarantee that students will have to pay for a maximum of four years. I often wonder whether politicians say such things because they have no clue or because placing blame resonates with voters who want to blame somebody.
As an academic, my argument is that is is seldom appropriate to blame the institution for students taking more than four years to complete college. There may be a few situations in which I would admit fault, but only to the extent that options are limited by the resources we have to expend.
So, for an example of a situation in which the institution is responsible, but not actually at fault, there are sometimes situations in which a specific course needed by a student is offered once every other year and was offered last just last semester. Translation – the course will now be available for some time. The frequency with which courses are offered can slow students down, BUT required courses are seldom offered infrequently, the resources available determine how frequently courses are taught, and lack of planning is the most common reason for missing the opportunity to take a given course.
Here are some other observations (possible causes of delay with examples):
We seldom require students to see their advisor. While regular meetings with an advisor is helpful, taking advantage of this opportunity is up to the student. Most of us spend a great deal of time sitting in our offices and we do not object to spending some of this time meeting with students. This does not mean that we are always available so making a phone call or sending an email can be helpful. Excuses such as “My advisor was not available Monday at 2:15 and this is the only time available in my busy schedule. How was I to know English composition was a requirement?” are not acceptable and likely an exaggeration.
Students often have little clue regarding what they want to be when they grow up and they often discover there are options mom and dad did not tell them about. I would think that changing your mind when you realize that an intended course of study is not for you or when you have found something that is a real passion is a good thing. It is a good thing even if you need to spend a little more time and a little more money.
Note: I was a biochemistry and biophysics major for a while because my high school guidance counselor could not find biology in the college catalog. There was not such thing as a Biology Department at the time. In fairness, may biochemistry advisor did indicate that he had never been responsible for someone who wanted to be a high school biology teacher before.
Some of the 400 premeds may not earn one of the 40 med school positions. Some of the premeds also did not fully understand the section on probability theory in their introductory statistics course. This is a situation in which it is known from the beginning that some students will be unable to achieve their goal. Who would you blame for this?
10 x 8=80. 80 < 120. So that is how that credit thing works.
- When I talk with students, I think they sometimes do not acknowledge basic arithmetic. To graduate in 8 semesters, you must complete a clearly stated number of credits. When you do not take enough credits or drop courses because you are doing poorly, the math allowing you to complete on the 8 semester plan may not work out. I am not judging here unless you are bewildered by this reality.
I need to take Statistics after 2. I work in the morning and need time for lunch. You have no courses available at this time.
- You are correct. Life is complicated and everyone must set priorities and make decisions. Setting a work schedule before you class schedule is a priority with consequences.
I could continue, but lengthy posts are seldom completed.
P.S. – I should indicate that “wasted” credits are a part of analyses appearing even what are supposed to be scholarly sources (Educause Review). I have a couple of reactions. First, the notion that the focus of an education is to efficiently generate the appropriate credit hours is somewhat off target. An education is intended to increase understanding, skill, tolerance, etc. Heaven forbid, student would contribute to any of these goals in a course that did not count toward their graduation. Second, sometimes what you learn in a course is that you are neither interested nor capable in a given area. This is often money very well spent.