Daily 49er

Four-year graduation tracks aren’t realistic for everyone

The disadvantages imposed on students as a result of pushing a four-year graduation outweigh its benefits.

The+Beach+Pledge+program+pushes+students+to+graduating+in+four+years%2C+creating+a+feeling+of+rush+and+anxiety+for+students.+
The Beach Pledge program pushes students to graduating in four years, creating a feeling of rush and anxiety for students.

The Beach Pledge program pushes students to graduating in four years, creating a feeling of rush and anxiety for students.

Nahid Ponciano

Nahid Ponciano

The Beach Pledge program pushes students to graduating in four years, creating a feeling of rush and anxiety for students.

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Growing up, my parents and teachers always told me that a bachelor’s degree should be completed within a four-year time frame. Attend all your classes, study hard, ace your tests and finish in four years. That’s the only way I’ve ever known.

This conventional graduation track is upheld at Long Beach State with programs such as Beach Pledge, perpetuating the expectation for undergraduate students to complete their degrees in four years.

Beach Pledge, introduced last year, was created in accordance with the California Promise Program to help support students seeking a four-year graduation. Students under the pledge receive priority registration and guaranteed course availability to help stay on track for a speedy graduation.

While Beach Pledge is an optional and beneficial program for students, its four-year track trickles down even to those who haven’t taken the pledge.

This initiative to increase the number of four-year graduates is a commendable goal, however, it shouldn’t be more important than students’ personal and mental health needs.

Certainly, graduating in four years can reap a handful of benefits for students. It’s no secret that students pay a steep price for their education. As of August 2018, an academic year of undergraduate tuition and fees at LBSU is estimated at $6,798 for California residents and $17,094 for non-residents. A timely graduation can save students from another semester or year of student expenses.

LBSU is also one of six California State University campuses where all undergraduate, pre- and undeclared programs are impacted, creating even more of a reason to push current students into completing their degrees as quickly as possible to accommodate the influx of qualified applicants.

But rushing students to graduate introduces a number of disadvantages that outweigh the benefits.

The fact that many students manage several responsibilities outside of school presents another problem with pushing a four-year graduation initiative.

Nontraditional students are categorized as older students who may have work obligations or family situations that can sometimes make attending college full-time difficult. This student population is becoming a larger student demographic in the United States, deviating from the way traditional students have historically been the majority.

Traditional students are categorized as full-time, 18 to 22-year-olds who enroll directly from high school and do not have major life responsibilities, whether it be managing several jobs or even a family.

With more nontraditional students working toward earning their undergraduate degrees, a four-year graduation track may not always be plausible for a significant chunk of the student population who may be juggling jobs or managing a family.

A person’s health and wellbeing will inevitably be compromised when trying to cram a 15-unit semester in with a job or other extracurricular activities.  Packed schedules can lead to lack of sleep and increased stress.

The increased stress placed on students has several consequences on students’ physical health such as immune system suppression, which can increase susceptibility to physical illness and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.

A survey conducted by the U.S. News & World Report and Strayer University found that increased scheduling flexibility would particularly benefit nontraditional students, and a rigid 15-unit semester load is far from flexible.

This problem extends to traditional students who may want to increase their involvement on campus or gain experience in their career field. College campuses are filled with opportunities for students to network through clubs or organizations. These activities require time commitments that students may not be able to fit around a fully packed academic schedule.

As a multimedia assistant at the Daily 49er, a member of the Long Beach State rowing crew and a full-time student, my days start at 5 a.m. and have the potential to last until midnight. I’m no stranger to managing a busy schedule and it makes satisfying basic human needs like eating and sleeping, very difficult.

As the responsibilities of students build up, their mental health is put at risk. Mimi Bommersbach, a counselor at CSU Chico, has noticed an increasing number of students loading up on units while managing obligations outside of their classes.

“We pile all these expectations on these students,” Bommersbach said. “Students have to eat, they have to rest, they have to play. And as they limit those kinds of activities that are really healthy, it creates this situation of stress and anxiety.”

Nontraditional students are trying to balance work and family life with school which can present many different challenges for them. LBSU needs to be aware of and take into account the needs of these individuals before rushing students out to increase four-year graduation statistics.

A four-year graduation track isn’t for everyone as it isn’t the most realistic goal. LBSU is home to a diverse student population each with their own individual needs and interests of students, which are what need to be prioritized over a four-year graduation.

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