Keep it Brief

By Ayan Kusari • Staff Writer

As graduation season rolls around, several state governments — Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota and South Dakota most recent among them — are rolling out scholarships for students who graduate in three years or less. The University of California system should promote a similar monetary incentive to graduating early — it proves most beneficial to the student, the college and the whole state economy alike. 

A 2002 study conducted by Kathleen Porter for the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education found that students who graduate earlier are more likely to earn more money over the course of their careers. This finding makes sense: students who push themselves to finish early have more time and energy to focus toward landing a good job and moving upwards professionally.

Graduating early benefits students by compelling them to take greater advantage of college resources — namely, summer sessions. UCSD’s summer break is 15 weeks long — enough time, thanks to the way our academic schedule is set up, to take over a quarter’s worth of classes. The nature of the course offerings as split between two sessions makes it possible for students to get ahead. Furthermore, students receiving financial aid during the school year are always eligible for aid over the summer. But as it currently stands, less than half of UCSD students take classes over the summer session. Incentivizing graduating early would encourage more students to use their time effectively and get the most out of their undergraduate education. 

Students should also graduate early, especially if they are part of the growing trend of pursuing education beyond undergrad studies. Graduate school, to name one example, has become vastly more popular than before.  A 2010 study conducted by Duke University found that student admissions to graduate school have shot up by an incredible 31 percent in the past decade alone. And at schools like UCSD, which have reputations for being even more pre-professional than average, the old notion of one’s undergraduate years being the last schooling before entering the workforce is even less close to reality.

Not only that, but in this economy, it takes longer to get to graduate school. The average entering age for the UCSD School of Medicine is now 25. That is up by a full three years from 22, the average age for entering students in 1970, the earliest year for which data is available. More students need graduates school to get a job, and students need work experience to get into graduate school. Students interested in professional school should graduate early because, depending on the work experience a particular grad school requires, it may be the only way for them to land a job before they are 30.

Students who graduate early also benefit the UC system, because it loses roughly $1,000 per quarter on each undergraduate enrolled at one of its campuses. This is because the cost of educating a UC student still exceeds the tuition they pay.  And 43 percent of UC students take longer than four years to graduate, according to the 2011 College Portrait, released last December by the Office of Student Research and Information at UCSD. This 43 percent exacerbates the problem by costing the UC thousands of dollars in extra quarters for their education. The benefit — an employed, tax-paying California citizen — is the same no matter when a UC student graduates. Conversely, students who graduate early are financial assets to the UC because the university system gets the same benefit at a lower cost. 

Students who graduate early get to pay less as well. UC tuition has been increasing at a rate of over 30 percent every five years, according to statistics released by the UC Office of the President, and shows no sign of slowing down. Interest rates for California students were higher in 2011 than they were in over a decade, and the average debt at graduation was at an all-time high of $18,113. In this economy, saving thousands of dollars on tuition by graduating early is a definite plus for any student. 

In this economy, graduating early can offer significant benefits for students seeking to enter the workforce, as well as those seeking to apply to graduate school. Furthermore, at a public school like UCSD, it offers unquestionable benefits to the university as well.

Readers can contact Ayan Kusari at [email protected]

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