October 30, 2013
College tuition costs and student debt continue to be concerns for many students and their families. In an effort to alleviate those concerns, Portland State University has developed an opt-in program that guarantees students will graduate in four years, with a few key caveats.
According to Portland Business Journal, starting this fall, all incoming freshman can sign up for PSU's graduation guarantee, provided they meet a few requirements: students will have to declare a major at the start of freshman year, remain full-time students throughout all four years and maintain good academic standing. Additionally, OREGONLIVE reported that students cannot change their major, add minors or switch to another campus. The guarantee is not extended to transfer students who come to PSU after earning half of their credits at a community college, which is about half of PSU graduates. PSU Provost Sona Andrews also noted that many freshmen would not be eligible, as many often have to work while in school and, therefore, cannot take on a full load of 45 credits every year.
A PSU press release stated that if students meet these requirements and stay on track, however, the university will offer all the courses and advising resources they need in order to graduate in four years. If students are forced to graduate in more than four years because PSU was unable to offer any required courses, the university will cover the extra costs.
"Student debt is a big problem; it hurts students by making it harder for them to make a living after they graduate," said Wim Wiewel, PSU president, in the press release. "This guarantee will ensure students finish in four years and only pay for four years."
According to OREGONLIVE, many PSU students graduate in six years. Just 17 of the 2006 freshman class graduated in four years, while the graduation rate jumped to 45 percent for students in college for six years. Across the state, students graduate with an average debt of $24,000, according to Portland Business Journal.
"Students in Oregon average between five and six years to get a degree that should take four years," said Wiewel in Portland Business Journal. "That means extra tuition, rent and books, which result in more student debt."
Matt Gianneschi, vice president of policy at the Education Commission of the States, told OREGONLIVE that the guarantee would also benefit the university. Gianneschi explained that having students declare their majors early on and ensuring that they do not switch majors helps the university better plan what courses to offer.
High school senior Aysia King told OPB that she thinks the added pressure to declare a major during freshman year is a good thing.
"If you don't decide as soon as you can, then you won't end up graduating within those four years, so I feel like that's pretty helpful for me," said King.
According to Portland Business Journal, Portland State is not the only college with a four-year guarantee. The University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Minnesota also offer similar pledges to their students. OREGONLIVE noted, however, that it is not known how many students participate in or remain eligible for such programs. Brian Prescott, director of policy research at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, speculated that many students are unable to meet all the requirements.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Portland State first among Oregon's public universities with a Four-Year Degree Guarantee," pdx.edu, October 29, 2013, http://www.pdx.edu/news/portland-state-first-among-oregon's-public-universities-four-year-degree-guarantee
"Portland State to offer state's first four-year guaranteed degree," bizjournals.com, October 29, 2013, Matthew Kish, http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2013/10/29/portland-state-four-degree-guarantee.html
"Portland State University offers 'guarantee' students can graduate in 4 years, with caveats," oregonlive.com, October 29, 2013, Betsy Hammond, http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/10/portland_state_university_offe_1.html
"PSU Announces Four-Year Guarantee Plan," opb.org, October 30, 2013, Rob Manning, http://www.opb.org/news/article/psu-announces-four-year-guarantee-plan/