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03 Nov College Degrees – Improving Your Chances

I recently found an interesting study that quantifies the relationship between various colleges and the percentage of graduates. Among other items, it shows that the most expensive college is not always the best for a degree seeking student.

Surprisingly, the average college student (over 50%) takes at least 6 years to complete a 4 year degree. In many colleges, the percentages are even worse.

So what can you take away from this report to enable you to improve your chances of getting a degree?

Let’s look at some of the choices that you could make. For example, if you live in California, you will have a multitude of college choices. Even if you decide to attend a university away from home, there are still a lot of choices within 100 miles of the major cities. A look at the tables in the report would show that the University of California, Berkeley would be a good choice with an 88% six year graduation rate. However, this is offset by the fact that UC Berkeley is a classed as a Highly Competitive school. In other words, you already have a history as great student to gain admission. Still, with tuition and fees at a low $7160 per year (CA resident) and high chances of succeeding, it remains a top choice for the serious degree seeker.

Compare that to California State University, Fullerton which has a 50% six year graduation rate with only $3,342 per year tuition. This university also has a much less competitive entrance requirement.

The authors of the report note that even in the same category schools (less competitive versus less competitive) there is still a large difference in graduation rates. They use California State University, Stanislaus (52%) as compared to California State University, Los Angeles (31%) to show that schools with the comparable tuition rates can have vastly different graduation rates.

But what if you come from a background that doesn’t lend itself to getting into one of the highly competitive, high graduation ratio schools? There are still several low cost options available.

I have long maintained that it is more cost effective to complete an Associate’s degree at a local community college, and then transfer to the more prestigious University to finish your degree. This is especially effective if you have a GED, a foreign high school diploma, or a home school background. These nontraditional credits are hard for a college to evaluate and many times you will not get full credit for your work. Add in the fact that the first two years of college are almost all the same, no matter which school you attend; and you come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter where you spend your first two years.

After completing the two year degree, transfer to the college of your choice and complete your Bachelor’s degree.

There are several advantages to this method:

1. No or low entrance requirements.

2. Lower tuition and lower costs if you stay at home.

3. You will get a taste of college life, adapting to the rigors of self guided study.

4. At the two year point, you will have an Associate’s degree; whereas at a four year university, you will only be at the 50 % (or less) point.

5. Many Community Colleges have a smaller class size, allowing more interaction with the professor.

This is the method that my daughter followed. As noted on my website, Education-Acceleration.com, my daughter graduated from an Italian High School. Even though she was an exemplary student, when it came time to enroll her in an American university, her transcripts and High School Diploma were not accepted by the universities. We investigated having her foreign transcript evaluated, but that would surely take time and the results were not certain.

We were speaking with the Admissions counselor at one of my daughter’s prospective colleges when she gave us the following advice; “Why not send her to Community College? They have no entrance requirements, and to be honest; the first two years of college are all the same.”

She continued, “Your daughter can complete an Associate’s at the Community College level, then transfer to our college. Once she gets her Associate’s degree, she can easily transfer. At that point, her High School transcripts won’t matter.

“Nobody cares where the student spends the first two years; they only care about the name on the diploma.”

This was the best college advice I have ever received. My girl followed the Counselor’s advice to the letter, and graduated first from Community College, then from Wright State University.

Conclusion: Review the report and use it to help you choose the college that will give you the best chance of graduating. I suggest you read the full report at the American Enterprise Institute’s web page at: http://www.aei.org/. The report is titled, “Diplomas and Dropouts: Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t)”.

If you come from a non-traditional background, go the Community College route, and then hit the University of your choice for your Bachelor’s degree.

Phillip Gabbard

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