ANNAPOLIS – Two studies in as many days have found that the time it takes students to earn a bachelor’s degree is increasing in Maryland.
The latest report, released Thursday by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), found it takes most full-time college freshmen at least five or six years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
The study came only a day after the University of Maryland System Board of Regents decided to vote Dec. 13 on a plan to reduce the time it takes to graduate.
According to MHEC, just 24.5 percent of full-time freshmen enrolling at a public four-year institution in 1989 earned a degree in four years. The numbers graduating jumped to 50.4 percent after five years, and to 58.2 percent after six years.
African American students followed a similar pattern. Of 1989’s freshmen, only 12 percent earned a degree in four years. The graduation rate sharply jumped to nearly 31.9 percent after five years, and rose to 39.1 percent after six years.
The study recommends that state institutions:
* limit the number of credits required for a degree.
* charge additional fees if a student takes an excessive number of credits.
* accept advanced placement or College Level Examination Program credits, which are earned through taking tests in certain subject matters.
* increase emphasis on academic advising.
* increase course availability.
* reach an agreement with other institutions to accept credits from other state campuses when a student transfers.
* offer four-year graduation guarantees to students.
* provide ways for students to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years.
* allow credit for service learning.
* provide financial rewards to students or institutions who finish in four years or have four-year programs.
“I wasn’t too surprised about the results of this study,” said Patricia S. Florestano, secretary of higher education.
“There are all kinds of reasons that contribute to the length of time it takes a student to complete a program. However, we need to make sure our institutions aren’t putting up any roadblocks that keep our students from finishing in four years.”
The study will be submitted to lawmakers next month. Florestano hopes the General Assembly, which requested the study last session, will support voluntary action on the part of educators. “What we want to happen is for the Legislature to support these findings and not pass rigid laws that make it mandatory for an accountant major to finish in four years,” Florestano said. “We want institutions to find ways to incorporate this into their university policies.” -30-