UWL: Students graduating with bachelor’s degree in less time

Follows similar trend at other state universities

On average, students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are graduating in less than four years for the first time. The time it takes to graduate from the university has been declining for many years, and it’s a trend seen by other state schools.

UW-La Crosse officials are also seeing this trend, where those who graduate from the university with bachelor’s degrees are doing so in less time. This means that students may be graduating with less debt and able to get into the workforce faster.

Morgan Belshause is trying to graduate within four years for a few reasons.

“Try to save some money and then less time here and move on to grad school or something,” said Belshause, who is majoring in biomedical science.

The UW-La Crosse junior worked with academic advisers and said they’ve been helpful, guiding her on what courses to take. She’s considering taking a class like analytical chemistry over the summer.

“So I don’t have to try to get them into regular semester if they’re kind of harder or something. I can focus on them more in the summer,” Belshause said.

That’s one of the many factors that is helping students graduate earlier, according to UW Madison. The university found during the 2018-2019 academic year, the average time-to-degree for bachelor’s degree recipients was 3.96 calendar years.

At UW-La Crosse, it takes slightly longer to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

“It used to be around 4.2 years, and now it’s down to 4.1 years,” said Sandy Grunwald, assistant vice chancellor for UWL academic affairs.

That doesn’t seem like much, but it continues to trend that way across all majors, with some graduating even sooner. There’s a handful of reasons why, like a focus on educating students about making good financial decisions, along with academic advising.

“About 70% of our first-year students are coming in with some college credit,” Grunwald aldded.

There are some variables that could extend the time it takes, including certain majors or dropping or failing credits. For Belshause, it’s that she’s not sure what she wants to do as a career.

“If I want to concentrate in anything like go pre-chiropractic, then I need to take physics and stuff, which I haven’t done yet,” Belshause said.

That will be up to her. But like many of her peers, she could stay on time or graduate earlier.

UW-La Crosse staff did not have a specific breakdown about how these graduation trends affected certain populations. Something that UW-Madison noted was that men were likely to graduate later than women. It also found it takes minority students, on average, longer to complete their degrees than non-minority students.

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