Fourth-year graduation rates increase, students speak out about tuition cost


As graduating seniors prepare to walk across the stage in Bramlage Coliseum, a few of the students’ classmates will be missing.

Of the 3,754 incoming freshmen in 2013, a little over 30 percent will graduate in May, according to trends in the Big 12 Longitudinal Retention Survey.

Even though many students attend Kansas State for more than eight semesters, the number of students graduating after eight semesters is increasing. In spring 2016, K-State graduated 33 percent of its students after four years, compared to only 27 percent of four-year students graduating in spring 2010.

The university’s individual colleges have seen similar rising trends as well.

In 2016, the College of Human Ecology graduated 51.25 percent of its students after four years, the College of Education graduated 47.8 percent and the College of Agriculture graduated 43.64 percent of its students in four years.

Don Boggs, associate dean of academic programs for the College of Agriculture, said the reason for this is money.

“We don’t see as many students working on minors and working double majors as we did when tuition was one price,” Boggs said. “There’s also the side of opportunity cost of finishing your degree and getting out and getting into a well-paying job.”

In 2006, in-state resident tuition for undergraduates was $2,889.50 for a semester and in 2016 it was $4,936.75, according to the Office for Planning and Analysis. Adjusting for inflation, that is a 38.97 percent increase in tuition.

Boggs said financial issues are one of the reasons students leave K-State, so the College of Agriculture has worked to increase the financial support it gives its students in the form of scholarships.

“As we go forward, we have to continue to always look at affordability and the financial support we can provide students,” Boggs said. “Scholarships and the support of our alumni have been very important.”

Audrey Schmitz, senior in agricultural communications and animal sciences and industry, will graduate in a month and said saving money is one reason she does not want to stay longer.

“I chose to finish in four years because it saves money in the long run,” Schmitz said. “I also know exactly what I want to do when I graduate and where I want to work.”

Another reason students leave K-State without completing a degree is due to academic-related issues, Boggs said. The college focuses on faculty advising, departmental orientation classes for freshman in their first semester and student organizations to help retain students.

“The sooner you can get a student kind of tied into different things that’s not just going to class and taking tests and writing papers, the more quickly students settle in,” Boggs said.

Schmitz said the structure of the college curriculum is the reason she was able to graduate in four years.

“The course requirements for my two majors interconnect so the free electives for the one major count toward the other and vice versa,” Schmitz said. “Personally, I think it is genius.”

Boggs said the college hopes to increase retention between students’ first and second years to 90 percent and increase overall graduation rates to 70 percent.

At the same time, the College of Agriculture has grown by almost 1,000 students from 2007 to 2014, Boggs said. Balancing a large growth in size and retention rates is hard because having more students per faculty advisor and larger classes tends to lead to lower retention rates.

“We have advisors that have 50 to 70 percent more advisees than they did back in 2007,” Boggs said. “It’s difficult, especially when we have not gotten additional resources to help teach and advise our students.”

Not all colleges at K-State have seen substantial increases in earlier graduation. The College of Business Administration graduated 33.57 percent of its 2006 freshman class in the spring of 2010, compared to graduating 34.4 percent of freshmen in the 2012 class in the spring of 2016.

That lower percentage in 2016 could be a result of the tough curriculum and higher 2.5 GPA that students must maintain for business classes compared to the university’s 2.0, Georgina Rubio, senior in marketing, said.

Rubio will graduate in four years, but said her time in the College of Business Administration was filled with a little frustration because she had trouble figuring out what classes she needed to take freshman year to graduate in four years.

“I would have done some things differently if I would have had a plan in the beginning,” Rubio said.

Rubio said the college has been working to retain students, and she has seen the efforts this year.

“The College of Business has implemented more programs and assistance, whether it’s tutoring for academics, financial help or even job searching with the new career coaches,” Rubio said. “They are definitely doing the best they can to improve.”