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How many years until you graduate?


7:00 A.M. EDT August 23, 2011

Members of the 2011 graduating class of Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., celebrate as they walk through Williams Memorial Gate following commencement exercises at the United Methodist school. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Members of the 2011 graduating class of Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., celebrate as they walk through Williams Memorial Gate following commencement exercises at the United Methodist school. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
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In addition to whether a college has an outstanding basketball, football, baseball or Wiffle ball team, another thing for prospective students to consider is how long it will take to graduate.

Finishing college in four years might seem like a no brainer, but more than 50 percent of full-time freshmen end up taking six years to graduate, according to stats on College Results Online.

Depending on the school, that could be an extra $28,000 to $60,000 a year with the extra tuition, room and board and incidentals — plus the money not earned because you are not out in “the real world” getting a “real” paycheck.

Private schools do a better job in general of getting students in and out in four years. But some colleges, such as United Methodist-related Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, are upping their scores by offering parents and students a four-year graduation guarantee.

If a student signs up for the program and fails to graduate on time, the college promises to pay up to one year of additional tuition. The program at Baldwin-Wallace will begin with the 2012 freshman class.

Students who participate in the plan have to come to college serious and ready to do college-level work, said Janet Stocks, associate academic dean for Baldwin-Wallace. Other requirements are signing up before beginning the first semester; using the Baldwin-Wallace Graduation Plan, a software tool that helps students plan their schedules; meeting with an academic adviser; being a full-time student and remaining in good academic standing.

Requirements may differ slightly from college to college. Green Mountain College, another United Methodist-related school in Poultney, Vt., also states the student needs to declare a major before the fourth semester. Those majoring in education, fine art or secondary education must declare their major upon entering.

School officials emphasize signing the agreement doesn’t mean you can’t change majors and it doesn’t mean students can’t take courses outside their major.

Key to these plans are staying in good academic standing, consulting with a faculty adviser and signing up early for required courses. Some of the things that might derail a four-year plan include working too many hours while in school, changing majors, delay in getting into required classes or sitting out a semester or two.

Some other United Methodist-related schools that also offer the four-year guarantee are Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa.; Randolph Macon College, Ashland, Va.; University of the Pacific, Stockton Calif.; Virginia Wesleyan College, Norfolk, Va.; and Hamline University, Saint Paul, Minn.

So when you are touring that great school with the beautiful campus, excellent residence halls and delightful professors – not to mention that championship Wiffle ball team – drop by the admissions office or go online and inquire about the school’s graduation rating. For a list of United Methodist-related schools, go to the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry website.

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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