At public universities in Texas, only 1 in 4 full-time freshman graduates within four years. That's obviously a problem for students -- and with Texas legislators considering a bill that would increasingly link state funding to graduation rates, it's a pressure point for colleges, too.
Amanda Dark, who's in her fourth year at the University of Texas at Arlington, works as a chemistry teaching assistant. Juggling fulltime work and fulltime school means a fulltime headache.
"I had to work, and it put me behind in my classes," she says. "There’s one specifically, it has like seven prerequisites, so if you do bad in one, you get behind in all of them. I caught up, but then I knew that I didn’t have time to take all the classes that I needed to to stay on track."
So she expects to graduate in spring 2014, five years after she started.
And she’s not alone. At UTA, the most recent statistics show that only 18 percent of full-time freshmen in 2006 earned a bachelors degree within four years.
The big reason history major Ariel Salzman is taking five years to graduate? She says she didn’t get the help she needed from advisers.
“Having to register for courses alone at home on your computer makes it really difficult," she says. "It’s just not a very open, communicative kind of discourse between you and your adviser.”
Dawn Remmers is executive director of UTA’s University College -- a one-stop advising and tutoring center. She says that while the requirements for a bachelor’s degree have not changed, the demands of student life have.
“They are dealing with so many different distractions," she says. "Students aren’t able or willing to focus on obtaining their education and committing their time, energy, and resources toward obtaining that education.”
Since UTA opened University College in 2010, those four-year graduation rates have blipped up.
UTA and other state schools have reason to attack the problem: Gov. Rick Perry is pushing to link more state funding to four-year graduation rates, and State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas has introduced a bill to do just that.