Students at CSU are finding it easier to graduate in four years, said Keith Ickes, associate vice president for Administrative Services.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the last two years,” Ickes said. Just 20 percent of the graduating class of 1998 finished their degrees in only four years.
However, starting in 1997, CSU lowered most graduation requirements from 136 credits to 120 credits. The first class to graduate with these new requirements, in 2001, showed 33 percent of students completing their degrees in four years.
This past spring, graduating students averaged 136 credits each, but Ickes expects that number to drop as graduation rates increase.
“We expect that will be dropping because many of those students started before the 120-credit program came into place,” he said.
CSU decided to change the credit requirements after comparing the number of credits students needed per semester to graduate in four years against the average number of credits students take per semester, Ickes said. They found that close to 50% of students take 15 credits per semester. The 136-credit requirement called for students to take at least 16 credits per semester to graduate in four years.
“We haven’t really seen the impact of the 15 credits yet,” Ickes said. “I fully expect we’ll see a constant increase.”
Another contributing factor, Ickes pointed out, is the fact that more students are coming into CSU better equipped to succeed.
“The quality of the freshman class, in terms of preparation, is going up,” Ickes said.
Allison Berday, biology major, is in the middle of her sophomore year at CSU. However, she is already a junior by credits.
“I may even be able to graduate in three and a half years,” Berday said. Her quick success is due to advanced placement credit she earned while in high school.
“My hard work in high school paid off,” Berday said. “It was also definitely an advantage to know what I wanted to do going into college.”
Ickes echoed her sentiments.
“If you come to college better prepared, sure enough, you’ll graduate sooner,” he said.
The only caveat, Ickes said, is the 120-credit requirement does not apply to every major. Engineering students in particular, as well as occupational therapy and landscape architecture, are among majors that still require a higher credit load.
“Engineering students still need 132 hours,” Ickes said. “It’s a major accomplishment for engineering students to get out in four years.”
Chris DeFoor, senior mechanical engineering major, agrees with Ickes. He is planning on spending four and a half to five years as a CSU student. DeFoor said he made a conscious decision to not graduate in four years because the credit load was just too much.
“At a certain point I decided I didn’t want to be taking that many credits,” DeFoor said. “You’re no longer learning, you’re just trying to survive.”