Friday, January 15, 2021

Middle-class grad rates dropping

A recent report released by CNN revealed a startling fact sure to rattle students, professors and parents alike: More than half of middle-class students who enroll in college fail to earn a bachelor’s degree within six to eight years.

The reason behind this detail cannot be linked to one factor, but according to the U.S. Department of Education, which monitors graduation rates on a national level, a variety of explanations such as a lack of academic preparation, financial difficulty and personal issues are possibly contributing to dropping graduation rates.

Further reporting from CNN suggests the chance of maintaining one’s economic status, or moving up a few rungs are far lower without a bachelor’s degree, regardless of the field. Although some programs may require additional semesters or extensive practicums, the longer a student is enrolled in school, the lower his or her chance of graduating.

So, what are students doing to avoid being swept up in this trend?

According to many, staying up to date or even ahead of projects and work due dates and deadlines is crucial to handling a collegiate workload, and a good way to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

“Once an assignment is announced, I like to start it as soon as possible,” Plattsburgh State freshman and finance major Liam O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly, who said he carves out about four hours a day to spend in the library, said mapping out assignments in advance and “asking lots of questions” are critical aspects of earning a degree in the desired amount of time.

O’Reilly’s goal is to earn his finance degree in four years. He also plans to add a second major to boost his resume.

For other students planning to earn degrees in more abstract majors that do not require as much standard essay writing and traditional assignments, staying motivated creatively is essential to avoid being stressed by deadlines.

“It’s really about disciplinary working,” PSUC graphic design major sophomore Ian Belleriv said. “You have to work up until you don’t feel creative.”

Although he admits to sometimes feeling under the gun when due dates begin approaching, Belleriv said he believes completing assignments in a timely fashion is “a matter of time management.”

While academic stress may explain why some students do not graduate within four years, or even at all, the pursuit of other careers that do not necessarily require a college education can be enticing for others.

PSUC junior and expeditionary studies major Tyler Swett said although he believes a college degree is “very important,” he said leaving school to pursue another path has “flashed across his mind” in the past. At one point during his college career, Swett thought about dropping his studies to enlist in the military.

Part of his decision to remain in college was based on his belief that earning a college degree is an important way to demonstrate good work ethic, and “see something through until completion.”

Despite the availability of other jobs that lack college degree requirements, workers with a bachelor’s degree will earn an average of $2.3 million over their lifetime, which is $600,000 more than someone with an associate’s degree and $800,000 more than someone without any degree, according to CNN Money.

Many students cannot envision themselves leaving school without a diploma, regardless of whether it is mandatory for their desired occupation.
“It’s not necessarily required,” Belleriv said, “but it helps you develop and be able to do more in the future.”

After attending a vocational school to study graphic design, Belleriv transferred to PSUC, noting that earning a bachelor’s degree is an “absolute advantage” in his field.

For others, a college degree is not just an advantage, but an absolute must.

“Most of the jobs I want, I won’t be able to get into with just a high school diploma,” O’Reilly said. “I won’t be able to do what I want without a degree.”

Email Thomas Marble at

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