Fifth-Year Seniors at WVU

How WVU is driving students to graduate on time

By Connor Schlegel

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(The campus of West Virginia University. Photo by Connor Schlegel)

Across the country, students are struggling to complete their undergraduate degree in the traditional four year time frame.

The National Center for Education Statistics measures a six-year graduation time-frame, instead of four. But for students attending college between 2008-2014, the national graduation rate was listed at 60%.

At West Virginia University, the four-year graduation rate is nearly half that percentage. According to CollegeBoard, WVU’s four-year grad rate is 32%.

The University is working to combat this national trend. Sue Day Perroots, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs explained.

“We’d like to encourage students to finish in four years. So we’ve talked about those institutions that are offering a free fifth year.. And actually, I think that may be providing the wrong incentive,” Day-Perroots said. “We want to encourage students to finish in four years and maybe use summer as an option.”

However, transfer students often can’t bring some of their credits earned at previous institutions when they make the move to WVU.

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(Fifth-year Business and Economics student Dan Hurley. Photo by Connor Schlegel)

“When I transferred here, not all my credits transferred. Actually, almost none of them did. So I basically had to start over when I got here,” fifth-year senior Dan Hurley explained.

And while the University doesn’t have a clear solution to transfer students attempting to finish their degree in a four year timeframe, Day-Perroots outlined some initiatives in place to encourage freshman to complete their time as an undergraduate in the traditional timespan.

One of those initiatives was the “15 to Finish” which reminds underclassmen to take more balanced semesters. Day-Perroots said that some students begin their academic careers by taking credit-stacked semesters and then slowly reduce the number of credits they take each semester. The “15 to Finish” plan advises students to take at least 15 credit hours every semester which would lead to the required 120 credit minimum after four years.

There’s also a new monetary incentive for students who are able to complete their degree in four years.

“Additionally we have a program here at WVU for this year’s freshman class and last year’s freshman class. If they finish in four years, they can get a $750 return on their investment.”

That $750 return on their investment comes in the form of a rebate check which that recent graduate can use to pay for part of the cost of student loans.

The WVU graduating class of 2020 is the most prepared to complete their degree after four years. They have the highest combined high school grade point average of any incoming class in WVU history with 3.70.

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