Study says students spending too much time in college

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INDIANAPOLIS - Research shows too many kids are dropping out of college and those who stick it out are taking way too long to graduate.

Less than one in three Indiana college students are graduating in four years. Most are spending much more time and money in school or just give up. New research finds just 61 percent of students seeking bachelor's degrees finish within eight years. Part-time students fare even worse, with only 15 percent earning a diploma in twice the anticipated time.

Students are accumulating enormous amounts of debt and the state is investing tremendous amounts of tax dollars in tuition subsidies. It is all money some say is wasted if it doesn't add up to a college degree.

"It is a crisis," said Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers.

She says Indiana is losing the educated workers it needs while young people are being left behind.

"If you incurred debt and you don't have a degree, you started off your adult years behind. It's very difficult to catch up," Lubbers said.

IUPUI student Mike Whitsett said not having his priorities in order added 2 1/2 years to his degree.

"You gotta put school first, work second and social life third or fourth," he said.

But that's easier said than done.

Complete College America's study of 33 states found that 75 percent of students are commuters, juggling classes, jobs and maybe more. Tiarra Johnson anticipates she'll be in college for seven years.

"It's hard to work full-time, go to school full-time and be a full-time mom. A lot of people can't do it," Johnson said.

The study also concluded students are wasting time earning needless class credits.

"If you don't take summer classes, or if you don't have credit coming into college, you are going to be taking 15-18 hours a semester," said Eric Rees, who expects to graduate from IUPUI after four years.

That leaves students little room for missteps in their journey toward a diploma.

The study offers several solutions. Colleges need to offer class schedules that work for working, commuting students. Remediation classes, intended to help struggling students catch up, aren't working and should be changed. Also, reduce the time and unnecessary classes it takes to graduate.

The study claims the more time students spend in college, the less likely they are to graduate.