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College shouldn’t be never-ending

Vince Orza May 15th, 2013

When I was a kid attending college, the general rule was it would take four years to complete a degree.

Today, more and more kids think college should take five or six years.

Why? If you plan it right, get the core courses out of the way in the first two years, identify a major so you know what you’ll need to graduate, it will take about the same number of classes and hours to graduate as it took in the ’60s and ’70s.

College is expensive, so getting in and out as quickly as possible, finding a job and becoming independent should be something we want our kids to do. The goal should be: Get out of school and get a job!

A recent report showed that six years into it, a third of University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University students still haven’t graduated.

It’s even worse for the state’s regional colleges.

If a third of our students can’t finish college in six years, their future and the future of our state is worrisome. What’s worse is letting or encouraging kids to move back home after they graduate. I can’t imagine any baby boomer kids even considering moving home after they graduated college.

Oklahoma’s graduation rates have been far too low for decades. Graduating later than necessary, or not at all, means our kids will earn less than they should/could and contribute less to our state and nation.

Likewise, getting out of school on time or early means they’ll earn more and be greater contributors to society. Granted, there are some people who will need more time because of family or financial obligations, but surely that’s not a third of those attending college.

When I was dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, I heard all the excuses about why taking three or four classes a semester was difficult, about not being able to work and go to school at the same time. Yet these students often had time for team sports or intramurals.

Adults work 40-50 hours a week, so our kids won’t die from exhaustion taking five classes for 15 hours a week.

In fact, they’ll still have plenty of time to study and work part-time. Take five classes a semester, every fall and spring semester for four years and you graduate! Throw in a couple of summer sessions and you can graduate early.

I often advised students that employers were more likely to be impressed with students who graduated in four years with a respectable grade-point average than those with a very high GPA who never finish.

Think of it this way: The sooner you begin your career, the better your chances for a raise or promotion. And once you have a job, there’s a chance your employer might help finance your graduate degree.

I hate to sound like an old guy, but if baby boomers could get through college in four years while working at least part-time, so can today’s kids.

Orza is president and CEO of KSBI Channel 52.

Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.

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05.16.2013 at 06:13 Reply


While your overall theory in this article is correct, I think that you need a fact check.

I am one of the 5 year graduates and my sister is on the 6 year graduation plan. Do you know what sets us apart from the individuals (who are slim to none) you referenced in your "article"? We WORKED all the way through our degrees. We had no other choice. While we took out financial aid we also had to work part-time to pay for groceries, rent, utilities, car insurance, & school supplies. We were just a few of the youth effect by the nation's recession. We come from a hard-working family, but during the peak of the recession our dad lost his job in the used car industry and our mom's teacher salary couldn't pay for our schooling. Prior to my dads lay off we had savings accounts for college, those dwindled down while we tried to sell our house and relocate. 

My dad, like so many, had to have a tough conversation with us. He told us that he was not going to be able to pay for our education; we had to figure it out for ourselves. We were both tremendous athletes. We were on scholarship for 2 years of our education. I played tennis and my sister was an academic scholarship.I suffered a MCL knee injury my sophmore year of college at a national tournament, I was not offered additional financial assistance. Due to a large amount of credit hours, I was foced to take a semester off and then transfered to Texas A&M where I worked two jobs (40-50 hours per week) and took 15 hours a semester, plus summer sessions. 

Next, I don't feel sorry for myself for working through school. I make more money and have more networking connections than anyone in my graduating class that didn't work themselves through school. I graduated in 2008 with 2 job offers, others are still unemployed. My resume contained much more than an University name and graduation year.

I could go on, but I think I've made my point... 

The 12% that can afford to graduate on time won't have jobs.

The 12% that you refer to also didn't have to pay their way through school. 

Will that 12% have a full resume to send out to potential employers? 

How many within that 12% is happy with their current job? Is that their career of choice?