A new study from NerdWallet found that taking six years to complete a bachelor’s degree could cost a student as much as $300,000 in additional tuition costs, loan interest, and lost income and retirement savings. That’s a problem since the National Center for Education Statistics reported that just 40% of college students graduate in four years.
One solution being tested is making the fifth year free for students who are unable to finish in four. Such programs normally come with strict eligibility requirements, such as working with an academic advisor, taking a full course load each semester, and passing all classes, but it is a way to help reduce anxiety about college costs, according to Tom Kazee, president of the University of Evansville, Evansville, IN.
Evansville launched a fifth-year-free program this fall, but is not alone in trying the solution. The University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, provides students with a free fifth year when they are pursuing academic interests outside of their majors, while Clark University, Worcester, MA, offers some undergrads a fifth year for free to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. In another approach, Howard University, Washington, D.C., offers a 50% rebate off the final semester of tuition to students who finish early or on time.
“It’s increasingly clear that colleges worry about getting students to finish on time,” Ben Miller, senior director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, told NBC News. “You see a lot of different approaches to that.”