Early graduation remains rare at UConn despite rising costs

The Wilbur Cross Building on the UConn campus in Storrs, Connecticut. (Jackson Mitchell/The Daily Campus)

Early graduation rates have remained largely stagnant at the University of Connecticut despite rising tuition and a variety of alternative scheduling options, according to Office of Institutional Research data released by university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.

An average of less than one percent of students who enrolled at UConn between 2007 and 2011 graduated in three years or less according to the OIR’s statistics.

Reitz said the university has seen increased enrollment in its summer and winter classes, however, which may help students graduate ahead of schedule.

“We know that the quicker people can get out of college the quicker they can get into the workforce,” Reitz said. “At the same time, there may be some students that’s not a good fit for. They may be working or taking a heavy class load, or a really complicated topic that they have to put a lot of effort into.”

Sharon Mendes, an advisor for the Academic Center for Exploratory Students, said that while liberal arts and business students tend to have less rigid schedules than those in hard science and pre-professional programs, most students don’t seem interested in leaving university early regardless of their majors.

“I think most of them definitely want to finish in four, that’s definitely a thing that many students and their parents say. But I don’t believe that I get too many students that are ambitiously trying to get out in less than four years,” Mendes said.

Zelly Nebrat, a sixth-semester communications major, plans to graduate in fall 2016 to get in on the January/February hiring cycle in California. She said she thinks many undergraduates are reluctant to face the job market early, though.

“There’s the threat of the real world out there, a lot of people want that cushion of the extra semester,” Nebrat said.

Despite switching between no less than four majors, Nebrat said she expects to graduate ahead of schedule thanks to taking multiple summer and online classes.

“My aim in college wasn’t to graduate early but at the end of my sophomore year we realized that I could,” Nebrat said. “My advisors everywhere I go are like ‘wow, that’s great,’ but none of them really pushed me to do that.”

Nebrat said the general lack of guidance led to her taking some unnecessary classes and struggling to fulfill her general education requirements efficiently, which might have allowed her to take more electives like French cinema in her three-and-a-half years at UConn.

Students who take Early College Experience classes, which fulfill a range of gen ed requirements, are among the most likely to graduate early, Reitz said. The ECE program has become especially popular in urban areas like Hartford and New Haven, she said, which may explain why minority students constitute roughly 1 in 4 early graduates.

“When people have a chance to take some extra classes it does save them some money in the end,” Reitz said. “A lot of those students are coming with those credits in place, so it’s a function of them having those opportunities in school.”

A three credit ECE class costs 93 percent less than taking the same course on campus, meaning that high schoolers can fulfill a $1,705 general education requirement for just $125. Brian Boecherer, executive director of the ECE program, said most students use this opportunity to get more out of their time at UConn rather than cutting it short.

“The other way of looking at it is if you come in with extra credits you can do more things in your four years, you can study abroad without having to worry about graduating on time,” Boecherer said.

Jessica Learner, a sixth-semester journalism and statistics major, said she chose to graduate a semester early to save money as an out of state student. She said she’ll likely use the time to travel, but will return in May to walk in the class of 2017’s spring graduation.

“By graduating in three and a half years, I come out debt free. I don’t have to take out any loans, so that was a big motivator,” Learner said.

Learner, who came to UConn with a number of AP credits from high school, also decided to expedite her time at UConn her sophomore year.

“You can’t just decide your senior year that you want to graduate early, you have to plan ahead,” Learner said.


Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.