Grads and undergrads at UW-La Crosse took their next step in life today as they crossed the stage at the university's December graduation.
More than 700 students graduated at the La Crosse Center. Most still have finals this upcoming week to prepare for, but they took a break from studying to attend their ceremony this morning. Professors took part in the event to congratulate the new alumni, and some were just as thrilled as their students - like Kenneth Winter, an accounting professor at UW-L.
"It's pretty exciting because we get to see our people come full circle and they're off to work," he said. "Most of our accounting majors have positions, so it's a pretty exciting time for them."
According to Winter, nearly 100 percent of his students will have a job waiting for them as they walk off that stage. But many of his students and others at UW-L took more than four years to make that walk.
UW-L's four-year graduation rate is 32 percent, according to Fred Pierce of the university's enrollment management department. The rate of those who graduate in five years is almost double that, at 62 percent.
It's a growing trend officials at the university are working to curb.
"Students that are with us longer than 4 years are eating up seats in classes we could seat other students," Pierce said. -"And it also increases their debt associated with the college education, both in their expenses and lost revenue associated with not being in the workforce."
UW-L offers advising and pushes its students to take 15 credits per semester, with the goal of getting more kids through in just four years. Advisers say that extra year isn't doing its students any favors - but students say between part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and more, four years just isn't enough time.
Super senior Grace Murray is one graduate who took a non-traditional route through UW-L. She studied abroad for a semester, an experience she says she highly values despite the fact it that it may have put her behind her peers graduating in just four years.
"I originally thought it would be five years, so four and a half is better than what I thought," Murray said.
Kyle Williams, a UW senior, plans to stay for a fifth year to finish up his political science major.
"It's a great place, I don't know why anyone would want to leave in four if you could stay five," he said. "Between doing other things outside the class and stuff like that five years is definitely the route to go."