States taking steps to discourage extended college careers

Texas is the latest state to discourage students from extending their stays at public colleges and universities, Ben Wieder reports at, with a new law requiring students to prepare plans detailing how they will achieve their degrees—and then obtain permission any time they want to deviate from the plan.

“We want students to think very deliberately about their education,” says Dominic Chavez, a spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. But Esin Saribudak, who graduated from University of Texas at Austin this past May with more than 210 credit hours—roughly 90 more than required–said the rigidity of the program will diminish the college experience.

“Holding kids accountable to plans made after two or three semesters kind of turns college into a vocational school,” she says.

It’s not the first effort to improve graduation rates in Texas, where fewer than half of students graduate in six years–below the national average. The University of Houston offers financial incentives up to $3,000 to students who earn 30 or more credits in each of their first three years, putting them on track to graduate on time.

Other states are taking different courses. Florida, for example, is charging higher fees for in-state students who take 15 percent more course hours than they need to graduate. And California is experimenting with a program at a community colllege to dole out grant money on a bi-weekly basis, like a paycheck, in hopes of encouraging students to think of their educations as a job.

Connecticut ranks high in the six-year graduation rate from four-year institutions, according to 2009 data from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, but near the bottom in the three-year completion rates at community colleges offering associate degrees.